Thursday, 19 April 2012

An ode to the paneer soda

After reading the summer post here, I was tempted to write something about my summer memories and also pay tribute to a drink that was completely washed away by the coming of Coca Cola and Pepsi. As teenagers, summer was special because it meant holidays among other things. On the last day of school, we would be eagerly awaiting the last exam's completion so that we could treat ourselves to a drink of Paneer soda and some candies. The name 'paneer' can be roughly translated as sweet. The drink comes in a bottle which has a ball in the mouth and one has to pop the ball to drink the sweet soda. For a sum of 75 paise, we could get a bottle of that soda. Along with that soda, we bought some cocoa toffees for Rs. 2 and that was our special treat.

The soda was a symbol of eternal joy for us as it meant the last day of our exam and also meeting our friends. Sometimes, if we had more money to spare, we would indulge ourselves and buy two bottles. We didn't have many choices of drinks those days. We could opt for a Paneer soda or Rose milk. We mostly preferred the soda as it was cool, sweet and also was slightly aerated. As we entered College, the drink slowly started fading away. The giant MNCs Coke and Pepsi entered the market, slowly wiping away the humble Paneer soda. There followed a complete colonisation of all local drinks like Paneer soda, Kalimark Bovonto and others.

Paneer soda (Can you see the ball in the mouth of the bottle?)

Paneer soda was something local and hence one could find it in every place -- even the smallest of the shops had Paneer soda and it was available for a very cheap price. One did not have to plan to buy a paneer soda. You felt like having some, you immediately bought it. The small treats changed big time after Coke made an entry. One had to have enough money if the treat was to include Coke and Pepsi. By the time we completed our under-graduation, there was no sign of Paneer sodas anywhere in Chennai.

Surprise of surprises!!! When I came to the place where I am presently staying, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Paneer soda still existed here. Last week, I bought a bottle and heartily consumed it while simultaneously thinking of past summers, sticky hands and cocoa toffees. Breathless,  I also took some time out to narrate my experience to the shop-keeper who was quite sure that I was some being that was delirious and slightly soft in the head.

So, what are your vivid memories of past summers that you cannot seem to enjoy in the present.

Image: Internet

50 comments:

  1. I seriously forgot of the Tamil meaning of Paneer and was thinking of cottage cheese! Can you believe I never had one of these though I looked at them with great longing??
    And how did you forget to mention the noise that accompanied the marble coming out of the bottle? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tell me about it Corinne! As I was typing, I was always interrupted by images of the eating paneer. Strange connections!

      Absolutely. I could never open that bottle.

      Delete
  2. Goli soda is what it was called in the North. I can imagine how nice it must taste. My Mom banned it for us - and I have no idea why - because we happily drank tap water in school!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tap water in school, I didn't drink but paneer soda on the last day of exam was a ritual by all means. And even my mom would try her best to dissuade me from drinking that soda. Wonder what parents have against that soda!

      Delete
  3. Dear Susan.
    LOL...I can just imagine the shopkeeper's face on hearing your story! Growing up in Trinidad, my mom used to make Milo with hot milk. That was our special treat with freshly baked bread that we could dunk in our enamel cups. Nothing tasted better than a drink in an enamel cup (smile). Times have definitely changed. I enjoyed this delightful post. Thanks for sharing.

    Quicksand

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Andy, even we had Milo. A green packaged container and a chocolaty drink. Somehow it didn't tick in India! How happy and satisfied we were with our Paneer sodas and Milos. Why do we face so many choices now much to our exasperation!

      Delete
  4. Goli soda was normal soda without much sweetness. Paneer soda came in normal soda-like bottles and yes, the taste was awesome! It was much better than pepsi or coke.

    We also used to get horlicks chocolate. 1 for 5 paise. Bus ticket was 90 paise and remaining 10 paise got me two of them! :) That was much better than most of the chocolates I eat these days.

    Destination Infinity

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even when I say the word, 'Paneer soda,' I am reminded of the sweet flavour cooling my tongue. Pepsi and Coke completely wiped them off Chennai, esp.

      Oh yes! even I have travelled in Pallavan buses for 75 paise and 1 rupee.

      Delete
  5. So nostalgic! Paneer soda will always be my favorite drink forever :-)

    P.S. Didn't the "paneer" refer to rose essence. I'm not sure too...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Gayathri, Paneer refers to rose essence. Maybe they added that to the soda to make it smell sweet and taste sweeter.

      Delete
  6. Yes, we too knew it as goli soda. I never drank it too. Maybe we could not afford that. Our special summer treat was an orange candy in the shape of a bowl which was 25 paise then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Janu, the ball at the mouth was called 'goli' and in some places, it's called 'goli soda'as well. I remember that orange candy you are talking about. Even I used to like it. For a rupee, we could get 10. Whenever we travelled, we had a dozen of that candy for it helped when we felt like vomitting. I finished up all those candies which were also meant for others.

      Delete
  7. Cherry Cream Soda! I used to love that growing up. It came in a glass bottle and I looked forward to my parents returning from the grocery store, checking carefully to make sure they had remembered to buy some.
    Now a days, I don't ever see it anywhere. When I was visiting Bonnie in IL, I remember seeing it in the store but didn't buy it because I didn't know if it was gluten free or not. What I really wanted to do was bring it back home for my children to try it, hoping that they would enjoy it as much as I had as a child ☺

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have read about that soda in some of the story books, I used to read way back then. Mary, I didn't know that even soda had gluten! Quite a discovery today. thanks for that, Mary.

      It's wonderful to see that all of us have wonderful memories of so da!

      Delete
  8. Such great memories associated with soda,Susan! We used to call it 'Bante wala soda' :D (banta refs to the ball in the soda bottle). And I am thrilled by the fact that we all share similar memories of our beloved paneer/bante wala soda! Cheers!! I say...The feeling warms the heart.
    Lovely, refreshing post...has such a summery feel to it! :)
    much love...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know . . . just the mention is enough to provoke my mind to fly away to those years of Paneer soda and wanton. Banta, goli . . . different names but the same soda. Amazing, what a soda can do to us and our memories :)

      Thanks for cheering this place with your lovely comment, Ruchi.

      Delete
  9. In Puerto Rico there was a soda called Cola Champan. It was super sweet, unique and a really special treat for me.

    You awakened some pleasant memories. Thanks always for your thoughtful posts. And hope you keep enjoying your soda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cola Champan!! Takes me to those films I used to watch.

      It's wonderful to read different memories with the common thread of soda, Myrna. Glad that you were subject to some pleasant memories.

      Delete
  10. Mine is of BEESCOOT and trust me i still keep trying from the street stalls but alas! that smoky earthy flavor eludes me.
    http://shivanidiwani64.blogspot.in/2010/08/beescoot.html
    Even in my native village in Bihar which is blessed with electricity for just one or two hrs in the entire day the tea stalls have upgraded their stocks with ParleG,Brittania Milk Bikis...and the likes. Gone is the not sweet not salty fav of mine.No the 50/50 or Krackjack can't match...no ways
    Lucky u to have got paneer soda back in ur life.
    Cheers to that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beescoot -- Nice word to pronounce aloud! All of us have something or the other to revisit - and these small goodies like Beescoot and Paneer soda always remain in one's mind and heart.
      Great to see a comment from you Shivani. It has been a very long time.

      Delete
  11. Susan the shopkeeper I am sure enjoyed your narration as much as we did : ) In the meantime, I know a drink that sells around my part called "banta" that looks very much like the bottle in your picture. Loved being here : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Banta - Did you like that drink, Kriti? Great seeing you here, as well.

      Delete
  12. Well since you already know my summer memories, I'll tell you that I've had this drink - like Corinne said, we called it the 'Goli' soda indicating the tiny ball in the mouth of the bottle.

    Of course, while it's not available in Bombay anymore, we still have it in my native place of Goa, also in the north - I've actually had it in Rishikesh, and Mathura and in Shimla!

    So, it's quite a widespread thing. And yes, local and cheap.

    We had the Parsi-owned company Duke's in Bombay which used to make strawberry soda and Mangola (for the summers, I swear it tasted just like alphonso mangoes) but it was bought by Coca-Cola and they've transformed it into Slice, whose brand-ambassador is the slender and firang-looking Katrina Kaif referring to her enjoying the drink as "aamsutra" - an obvious reference to the Kama Sutra.

    So now advertisers for MNCs sexualise a mango drink? Really? Times really have changed.

    Sometimes I wish I could time-travel and spend the rest of my life in the past.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, I remember the Duke's Biscuits too and I have also tasted the soda which you have mentioned. And, my, it has been so long. I can still remember the taste.
      As for the Aamsutra - such a stupid ad for a mango juice!!!

      Same here. Even I wish I could time-travel and get lost there and never come back. But if had to time-travel, I so wish that your time and mine overlaps somewhere so that we meet and chat.

      Delete
  13. The smell of Lilac bushes brings me back to the last few long sunny days of school and the start of summer. They bloom in my hometown every May and the smell still brings me back...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Erin:

      I don't even know in order to imagine the smell of lilac. I wonder how it would be. Smell and memories are very closely related.
      Thanks Erin for coming by and sharing your insights.

      Delete
  14. I know about paneer soda only what's in your post. My favorite cold beverage is soda water. I'm used to it from childhood and despite controversial opinions , I believe it's a healthy drink which prevents indigestion. Even if now and then I have a Cola or a Sprite, I always come back to Soda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And how blogs educate us in a way by giving a peek into different cultures. This is what I love about blogging -- I get to know so many things and you also get to know stuff. Even paneer soda is quite effective when there are indigestion problems.

      Lucky you that you have the soda there. Here, in India, it is available only in the rural areas.

      Delete
  15. I remember my grandpa and dad telling me about paneer soda. I seriously wish I knew more about how my dad and his cousins spent those summers years back, it's so much fun to listen to them speak of the fun they had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh! my God, now you seem like a kid when you say that you have heard your father and grandfather talk about paneer soda. Maybe you should ask about all this to your parents.
      Paneer soda and those days were fun!

      Delete
  16. I am completely loving all the comments on this post! It's amazing how a cold-drink from childhood days can bring back a flood of memories. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. NEVER would I wish to return to the past! I don't remember why, but I know it was not good!

    Now is the place to be
    Now is the place for me
    Now I'm happy and free....

    Cream soda, we called it "Red Pop" because it was, well, RED! And Root Beer--before I knew about BEER! Those were two of things which made me smile, not so much stomach-irritating fizz.
    Susan Deborah, you have a real talent for conjuring deep searches into my memory. Glad to do it now, some day there will be none left--grin!

    LOVE and PEACE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now is the place to be and past is the memories that nourish the 'now.'
      The now will be a memory tomorrow like the past which was a NOW then.

      Leave the fizz, we need memories!!!

      Steve, looking at what a soda can do to us is wonderful. Glad that you shared your memories with us.

      Delete
  18. The best part I like about these bottles is the funny noise it makes when you open the bottle. And then there is a particular way in which you have to hold the bottle, or the marble comes back to the rim and stops the flow of the soda... all this is explained by JimReeves in Flickr (by the way JimReeves aka Joezachs aka me)
    This was a photo which I had uploaded way back in 1997. Like what they say, life comes to a full circle :-)
    Here it is :
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/joezach/1962380733/in/photostream

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That noise was the best, Joe. I tried hard to open those bottles but could never do that. Jim Revees knows about the paneer soda!! Wow! Must be a Tamil Jim.

      I should swing by to the picture. Wait.

      I just checked the picture. The pic looks just like the one I've posted. You never know, this pic might be your pic!!!

      And indeed, life comes a full circle albeit very slow.

      Delete
  19. Paneer soda classic soda
    the sound of the opening wow

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, sirji.
      The sound of the opening is the best!

      Delete
  20. It was just last week I was talking to my friends about my memories of this Paneer soda or "Goli soda" as we always called. How I longed to go home and pester my dad for one! Now Im quite astonished that we could get one here Ma'am! Im surely going to take the 'address' from you. I don't know about MC Donalds but it is this Goli soda that make go - I'M LOVIN' IT!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll take you some day but then it's not the goli one but the soda is the same.

      Delete
  21. ah haa. BANTE WALA SODA .. oooh how much we loved them .. add a bit of lemon and that red namak thing and yummmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    nostalgic for me .. we use to wait for the guy who would come and one bowl of wheat would get us TWO bottles :)

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sweet lime soda is popular now here but then we didn't have sweet lime soda.

      A bowl of wheat! You lived in the time of barter?!?!? Wow!

      Delete
  22. we call it Bantaaaa...!!! and we still get it in Delhi, though it isn't sweet as they add lime for a "khatta-meetha" flavour... but truly crazy about that drink !!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome Sneha:

      Glad to have you in the meanderings. Lucky that you still get it in Delhi. In Chennai we don't get it but in the rural places we still get it alongside Coke and Pepsi -- now that's what I call a peaceful co-existence.

      Delete
  23. You know I thought for awhile by paneer you meant THE paneer and I was wondering how could you have paneer in soda. You know what I miss these days. It is those NP chewing gums, with their green and yellow wrapping. You dont get them anymore, the market is full of all kinds of gums. I remember my dad buying them for me and how I would twirl them in my mouth, tasting the peppermint and biting into it. Nice read Susan.

    http://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.in/2012/04/dusk.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, Rimly. The word paneer in Tamil means sweet or having rose essence

      I also remember those gums you are referring to. Memories are made of stuff like these.

      Thanks for coming by, dear Rimly.

      Delete
  24. Panneer soda is nice... but now a days people didnt like that soda they want coke, pepsi, etc...
    panneer is good to heath...

    ReplyDelete
  25. Nice post, but i got all nostalgic 3 years ago!!! Still get the occasional panneer soda but sadly in recycled cola bottles. Miss the goli soda.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Lovely.. I remember the paneer soda bottles too. As a child though, I always thought it was like alchohol.. meant only for grown-ups, so never indulged in it :-)

    ReplyDelete
  27. hey hi i got a chance to drink this delicious and awesome paneer soda opp to south tower of Meenakshi amman temple, madurai. i loved it

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails