Month: August 2021

Desi flavour of Campa Cola and the zing of Gold Spot!

Remember Campa Cola. It was such a rage in the 80s. While growing up that’s the only Cola I knew. They also came up with Campa Orange that I really liked as a girl. Then there was zingy Gold Spot.

I first tasted Campa Cola when I was five. We were staying in Kacharapara then, a town in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district. My father was on study leave, pursuing Agri MSC from Kalyani University. My much older cousin Boro Pishi’s (bari bua) son Tapu dada was visiting us from Kolkata. Whenever Tapu dada or his brothers visited it would be party time for me.  They would take me around, buy me whatever I wanted, goodies that my parents usually denied. This time I wanted to have Campa Cola.

I still remember sitting in a restaurant with Tapu dada, sipping slowly with a straw into the glass bottle. I was drawn to the drink after seeing colourful ads of Campa Cola in magazines. The fizz however was too much for little me handle and I was struggling to finish the drink. Tapu dada patiently looked on as I sat with the bottle for an hour. I don’t remember if I managed to finish the drink.

Gold Spot was the zing thing. We also had Thumbs Up, the taste of thunder and lime and lemony Limca. I remember Kitu Gidwani’s Gold Spot ad in the late eighties that took Door Darshan by storm! I still enjoy watching the ad on YouTube:

He is crazy about speeding/ I go crazy over his driving/ He is crazy about mobike race and I go crazy just keeping pace/ You bet, he’s crazy about me./As crazy as crazy as we’re about …Gold spot, the zing thing, Gold spot, the zing thing/Gold spot

Those were the days of Desi Colas that came only in refillable glass bottles, slightly inconvenient but more environment friend. Campa Cola, introduced by the Pure Drinks Group in the 70s, ruled for over two decades. Pure Drinks Group, pioneers of the Indian soft drink industry, introduced Coca-Cola into India in 1949. They were the sole manufacturers and distributors of Coca-Cola till the 1970s when Coke was asked to leave the country. The Group launched Campa Cola then with the slogan was “The Great Indian Taste.” Orange flavoured Campa Orange was introduced soon after.

Gold Spot, a very popular desi drink in the 80s and early 90s was introduced by Parle Bisleri. An initiative of the company’s founder Ramesh Chauhan, Glod Spot came along with Thumbs Up and Limca from the house of Parle. The Global soft drink giants Pepsi and Coca Cola had exited India in the 1960s due low sale and other issues. The desi Colas ruled the roost enjoying huge popularity with the youth.

But then the giants returned in the early 90s and the desi Colas lost their fizz. Campa Cola perished, Glod Spot gave in to Coca Cola’s Fanta, Thumbs Up and Limca were taken over. It’s not because the global brands were better, it’s because they had more muscle and money power.

For me Cola is still Campa Cola, Zingy is still Gold Spot. Maybe it’s the aggressive marketing of the global giants or the loss of the desi flavours, Cola has lost its fizz for me since!

Nostalgia, memories, the lingering sweetness…

The memories of lying on my back under a starlit sky, counting the stars, the magic of the shooting stars. The moonlit nights had a different appeal. There’s something about the moon that has fascinated me as a child, the changing shape, the patterns on the moon or rather the craters. I have always found the moon enigmatic and mysterious. Each star had a different story to tell, I thought. There’s so much secret hidden in the dark blue night sky. But alas, the bright lights of development eventually hid the night sky.

Rain makes me nostalgic

The pleasures of those rainy mornings, with absolutely nothing to do, just watching the rain or floating paper boats in deluged the courtyard. The music of the pitter pater silver rain, the simple pleasures of rainy days. Me sitting by the window, daydreaming, fantasizing about my dream lover who will sweep me off my feet. The grown-up world stole my rainy days. The traffic snarls, the water-logged roads and the miserable drive to work killed the romance.

The fun and joy of festive days – Lokhhi pujo, Saraswati pujo, Diwali at home. With my gang of cousins, we would raise money from the grown-ups, Nomentu (my dad’s younger brother lovingly addressed so) being the most generous donor. We would make a pandal with mom’s old sarees and garlands of marigold and march to the market to buy an idol. Walking in happily with the Goddess, sound of conch, kashor and ghonta.  The deadlines, the tight schedules, the obligations of being an adult, stole those days from me, burying them somewhere deep.

Those childhood days were so much fun

The first crush, the first kiss, the excitement, the happy fantasies. Life was like a Mills & Boon romance, the lovers spat, the make-up kisses and the illusions of happily ever after’s. Broken dreams, shattered hearts, promises forgotten or never made. I pick up the pieces and dream again of my prince charming who’s waiting somewhere.  Sweet memories of being in love

That’s the beauty of memories, the lens of nostalgia makes the past look beautiful. The long hours of load shedding or power cuts, having to finish our homework in candlelight, the heat and the mosquitoes stinging me are forgotten. Only the beauty of the starlit night remains. On those long rainy days, the inconvenience of having to walk through the dirty deluged road is forgotten, music of the rain is what still allures me. Despite all the heartbreaks, it’s the memory of the kiss on a beautiful moonlit light that brings a smile to my lips.

Maybe it’s the simplicity of those days, maybe life is all about making beautiful memories and filtering out the inconsequential…

Daak naam/Pet name

Bongs their daak naam! Daak naam can be loosely translated as pet name or nickname but it’s much more than that. Almost every Bengali has two names – the dressy ‘good’ name for the outside world and a short, sweet, often funny and always meaningless daak naam or pet name that is used at home by family and close friends. For instance, Pinaki Dasgupta could be called Poltu at home or Nibedita Mukherjee’s daak naam could be Babli. Famous bongs have famous pet names, for instance, Rabindranath Tagore was called Robi and Satyajit Ray was fondly addressed as Manik da and R D Burman as Pancham da.

With my sisters & cousins. From L to R: Miki, Mimi, Munni, Sumi, Molly & Munmum (that’s me)

Daak naam or pet names are easy to pronounce, there’s something intimate and personal about them. Maybe that’s why as kids we would fiercely guard our pet names from our friends and classmates. We would resort to all kinds of tricks to learn each other’s pet names. And once someone’s pet name was revealed that would be an event. We would tease the person by calling out his pet name at the most inconvenient times – in the school bus, in the playground, in between classes, so that more kids would know the name and join the fun.

Bongs also have a knack for weird pet names. Boys are often called Jhantu, Hadan, Bhodai or Piklu at home. Girls are named Puchki, Buri, Bula or Mammam. Raja, Tutu, Bappa, Babu or Bapi for boys and Mamuni, Mamon, Bulti etc. for girls are some common pet names. The eldest son is often called Buro and the daughter Buri and the younger ones Kutti or Chutki.

Though pet names are often funny and awkward, they are enveloped in love. Sometimes lovingly a family bestows several pet names on a child. For instance, my nephew is Raghav for my parents, his Bua calls him Jeet, he is Shona for his parents and for the world he is Diptanu.

With Raghav urf Jeet

I was born 4 years after my parent’s got married in a joint family full of unmarried uncles and aunts. I was a pampered child with many names. While Mummun is my official pet name, I was fondly addressed by a different name by each member of my family.   And some of these weird names have lovingly stuck to me. My mom used to call me Buggi (thankfully she has now moved to Mona). Ranga Pishi (my favourite Bua who unfortunately left us early) would call me Manku and my cousins had a field day teasing me as Monkey. Mannam, Gudum (because I was a chubby kid) were other names. Luckily Monkey is forgotten but Buggi is not. My cousins call me Buggi or Buggi Didi in public. I used to be annoyed and embarrassed earlier, but now I feel loved.

That’s something about daak naam, they are embarrassingly loving. We are reluctant to reveal them, but we will never let them go!

Rain, rain, come again!

Remember the nursery rhyme: Rain, rain, go away/ Come again another day/ Little Johnny wants to play – that is never me. I always love rain, almost unconditionally. I want it to rain, drizzle, pour, no matter what. Rain never comes in the way of my plans; it adds to it.

Rain drenched rose

Maybe because I hail from a place where it rains a lot. My hometown Agartala is blessed with rain. We have a bountiful monsoon there and often generous non-seasonal rains. As a little girl, I remember waking up to rainy mornings and eagerly getting ready for school. On those mornings, even if mom would be reluctant to send me off, I would rush to the bus stand in my raincoat, insisting that there was an important class that I couldn’t skip. The joy of walking in the rain, the errant drops kissing my forehead, sometimes in ankle-deep water, was something I wouldn’t miss. Attendance was thin on such days; teachers would go easy on the poor rain-soaked kids. We were allowed to take off our wet shoes and socks and let them dry under the fan. Those rainy days, more fun & play and less studies, are probably my fondest memories of school.

There were days when rain would catch us by surprise. Our school, Holy Cross, was surrounded by huge playgrounds and trees. There were times when we would be playing under a tree far away from the school building and it would suddenly start pouring. We would come back to the class happily drenched to be sent off to the common room to dry ourselves.

Rain-soaked parks

On those rainy Agartala days, I felt like a peacock dancing in the rain. I had no other care in the world except soaking in the happy drizzle. Sometimes it would rain so much that the streets would be flooded, and we would be stuck at home. I would sit by the window for hours staring dreamily at the clouded sky, drizzling or pouring rain or the deluged courtyard. Thunder, a flash of lightning or storm that often came along with rain added to the allure of those wet days.

As I grew up and moved to drier climes, rain became rarer and eagerly awaited. While studying in Hyderabad, I would wait for the rain to pour on our rocky campus and wash away the heat. Memories of running back from the class to the hostel in the rain or walking lazily with a boy who wouldn’t leave my side all drenched. The thrill of walking up to a man waiting for me outside a coffee shop in the happy winter drizzle. I often felt like a Jasmine tree washed in the rain, flowers shivering and quivering, waiting to bloom again.

Living in NCR now, the wait for rain is sometimes unending, the long scorching summers and the sparse monsoons. The dry heat sears the dreamy Jasmine, the plant is parched waiting for it to rain. The peacock refuses to dance and the sweet boy has receded to some far-flung corner. On such harsh summer days, I wish it would pour, the streets would flood and the rivers swell, washing away all the dry dead twigs and the broken dreams. Maybe once the despair is swept away the flowers will bloom; I will dream new dreams and dance like a peacock again on the rain rinsed greens.