Sunday, April 15, 2007

Keeping One’s Cool: "Nimbu Pani"

Last week, I had been to the hinterland in South India where during summer temperature reach as high as 45 degrees. There was a function in the early hours of the day, but as the noon approached, everything succumbed before the blazing rage of the summer god and there were hardly any people on the streets. Since the place was a small mid-town, I never found many people going around in A/C cars but found few on two wheelers like scooters, bikes and few on tractors with most of their heads wrapped in a sheet of white cloth or towel, used as a cap. The outdoor activities, as I realized during these sweltering hours are more out of compulsion rather than enthusiasm.

I just walked down the street and found a group of people under the shade of a small tree, withered by the strong sunstroke. It's high summer and as is expected, everyone wanted some thirst quenching drink for coolness and turn up the heat mixing up a few refreshing drinks. This being a simple place, I never meant the refreshing drinks to be Mojito, Daiquiri, Lorina, Pina Colada, Pschitt [there is an interesting story on this] and few others with alluring hues, exotic names and certain light deliciousness, which I have tried before. Here as the mercury soared, the people had gathered to satiate their dehydrated souls with humble, homemade "Nimbu Pani". The way it was made was simple as is followed in most Indian homes with a small variation as one crosses different parts of India.

Preparation here is for one glass, as I saw it there.
1. Cut the lemon in halves center wise, remove the seeds and squeeze out the juice. Again those of you feel its not hygienic, please note that a wooden crusher was used to extract the juice. No use of hands at all.
2. To this juice was added a tablespoon of syrup. This is called "Nanari" extracted from the herbal roots, crushed and preserved. [I got this information, conversing with the shop owner with my limited knowledge of Telugu language toasted with bits and pieces of Hindi and English.]
3. Now add water, which may be ice-cold water or soda water as per the orderer’s selection.
4. Sugar or salt is added as per the orderer’s choice, or it may be a combination of both.
5. Stir the contents and it is served chilled.

Note that the addition of "Nanari" syrup was not mandatory and again it depends on the orderer’s preference. Also depending on choice, pepper and an assorted powder is mixed for added tang.

End result is simply awesome. Other than providing a lip smacking luscious taste, the economics part of it, also beats the heat wave of price rise in Indian cities hands down. The rates are something that one will agape with wonder compared to those in big Indian cities. The simple ice-water lemonade was priced at Rs.3 per glass and the soda watered one was priced at Rs.4 per glass.

The makeshift shop is a self-sustained entity. If you notice, the picture, there is cylinder on the left hand side. This is a cylinder of carbon dioxide, wired meticulously to the internal conversion unit on the bottom side of the stall and is used to prepare carbonated water, also known as soda water. There are four filling taps, the two on the either extremes with a black tapering mouth supply soda water and the central ones supply normal ice-cold water. New age colas have dominated the markets and TV screens with our favorite superstars advocating what they certainly don’t practice. But in this small town, I found that even though the shop owner had a good stock of Limca, Thumps Up, Sprite, etc very few consumers [sample space of 20 people, whom I say] ordered for those aerated drinks. Was it the high rates or their general distinct preference for local drink, that dictated their decision, I am really not aware of this.

But one point is clear.

The supermarket culture is steadily becoming a predominant part of our life, especially in the cities. People rush to stores and get cartful of aerated drinks for summer these days, with most of the brands offering 20% extra for the same existing price, 'Buy-1-Get-1-Free' bottle sales and aisles devoted to cool drinks of imports grade.
"If I serve nimbu-pani at my child's birthday party, children ask, ‘Where's the Pepsi, Aunty?' It's as if they don't recognise homemade nimbu-pani any more. And certainly not at a party!"

Does this mean that, our good old simple "Nimbu Pani" is dying a slow death ?

Keep reading and remain connected.

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