by Annapurna Group | May 19, 2021
Magical Summer Drink
I grew up in a busy old Delhi locality mostly housing joint families with lot of kids around. Unlike present day scenario, we loved playing real games, in groups. Honestly, nearly all nineties’ children have collective memories of food, festivals, games, fun, fears and myths. One of mine begins on a typical sultry May afternoon in Delhi and we were all back from school. We were a pack of seven cousins at home. After lunch, we usually took a nap so that we could re-energize our bodies for a long play session in the evening.
During summers, Delhi remains humid even in the evenings. We all used to gather near a guava tree in our neighborhood where we would argue and fight over silly issues. This guava tree was the only fruit bearing tree I had ever seen in my childhood. Thanks to rapid modernization and construction that began in Delhi during 90s. This tree was always ladened during fruiting season as we knew the owner never allowed anyone to take its fruit. We had carved a beastly image of the tree owner and never dared to approach them.
Finally, we all agreed over playing hide & seek and we all split up to look for good hideouts. I managed a perfect nook. As I waited quietly, there was a big bang and the electricity went off. I got scared and started to sweat. In that dark hollow space, all I could see was the shadowy branches of that guava tree. I heard my cousins and other kids were wrapping up the game. Slowly, their voices were getting bleak and my fear was growing. I began to cry in that lull. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my head. I freaked out and turned back. A short silhouette of a female, only thing visible in that darkness was her white saree. I nearly fainted. “Everyone has gone back to their houses, you too go”, said the voice. Hearing a human voice, I gathered my courage to get up and see her. She was Gayatri aunty. Known to have the only guava tree in our block and infamous for being harsh if someone tried to pluck the fruits. She held my hand and started to walk towards her house. She lit the candle and asked me to sit inside. All this drama had made me super nervous and exhausted. She then brought glass of a chilled drink. It was our summer favorite, Aam Panna. I gulped the full glass. It was like world’s best Aam panna I ever had. A perfect blend of tanginess, sweet and salty concoction, this Aam Panna was so different and satisfying. I kept the glass back waiting for her to ask for another helping. But she didn’t. Instead, she took me back home. That night, I kept thinking not about the guava tree’s rude owner but the delectable and tangy taste of Gayatri aunty’s Aam Panna.
Aam panna is a great natural rehydration drink made from raw mangoes. Sometimes, sugar or salt and spice mix is added to give it an interesting twist. It is an all-summer favorite at most of the Indian homes. Our mothers loved to serve it as they believed it would save us from Delhi’s scorching heat. Next day, I deliberately went to hide near Gayatri auntie’s house in a greed to be offered a glass of her tasty Aam Panna again. She watched me playing but she didn’t ask for a drink. I felt sad but I was hopeful there would be another chance when she would call me. A week later as I was playing, I heard her voice calling out my name. This time she had a thread and needle in her hand. “Can you help me put this through”? I at once agreed and put that thread for her. She then asked, “Aren’t you feeling hot”? My answer was an obvious Yes. She then went inside to bring her irresistible signature Aam panna. I enjoyed it more than before.
The taste in her Mango drink has never matched with any other drink I have had. For years till we shifted from our house, I found some or the other ways to go to her house and ask forher Aam panna. All my friends envied me because I could approach the fierce Guava tree owner with so much ease. Few years back when I visited our old house, I went to meet Gayatri Aunty. But she wasn’t there. They too had shifted out. Now there was no Gayatri aunty, no Aam panna and the guava tree too was axed.
There are several brands with alternatives of Aam Panna in the market today. But I still long to have the same taste that would make me nostalgic. A glass of fresh Aam panna that would bring back my memories of Delhi Summers and carefree childhood, of Gayatri aunty and her guava tree. I am waiting to taste that magical summer drink...again.