The mercury soars and the looks of the sun border around the unkind as he goes about his business of heating up everything in the region to intolerable extents. Summer has arrived and it’s more than official. Adding a degree or two to the environmental effect is the fact that one election has just drawn to a close and another is fast approaching.
A different kind of heat will soon permeate the atmosphere with lobbying, slogans, banners, and a wide range of political games. It is going to be an activity laden two months as we make our way through the calendar in anticipation of pleasant June showers.
Belagavi, once reputed to be a pseudo-hill station is fast evolving into a city much like others that are characterized by the concrete jungle of human residences. The quantum of green has drastically dwindled, making way for the more convenient symbols of human development. Although the city continues to be (on most days) cooler than its almost equidistant peers Hubli and Kolhapur, it’s simply not what it used to be.
Come summer and there is a flurry of activity in the fruity and creative domain as vendors get to their job of making the most of the business opportunity. The scant number of fruit juice and ice cream vendors suddenly gives way to a parade of gaily colored vending carts that line up the streets at strategic locations.
Ironically, most of these thirst-quenching materials become dearer in terms of price in the summer season with the prices of fruits commencing their upward journey.
The traditional Limbu-sharbat stall is a classic representative of what’s almost an integral part of the summer relief culture in India. With a portable stall decked with a generous litter of the green and yellow lemon-lime collections, the chap makes his way across the street, advertising his wares with his special announcements with promises of offering the perfect relief in times so sultry and energy-sapping.
With 2-3 containers of water ( filled at best unknown origins) and a couple of crates with carbonated water most generally of the unbranded genre packed to seem like branded stuff, the thirst fighter braves the heat, dust and billows of smoke from vehicular emissions in an attempt to catch the eye of the parched throat. The glassware that he carries is neatly stacked but largely unprotected from the excesses of the accumulating dust and the ever-present flies. The structure as such has no formal barriers from things that would cause it to be unhygienic. The logic however is very simple. Nothing survives in carbonated water and regardless of the state of the accumulations on the juicer, the glasses, and the notorious pack of ice, the final product that he dishes out is often deemed safe for consumption.
Whether it’s safe for consumption is often a tale of the individual resistance to disease. By and large, we are so used to the unhygienic stuff that it would take more than just a few thousand bacteria for us to even show symptoms of any disease.
It is often said that our culture is one of supreme tolerance and I guess we are good at it even when it comes to accommodating bacteria and viruses.
A similar tale can be sketched for the ice-cream vending vehicles and the fruit juice carts. The lesser we talk about hygiene, the better, since, after all, cleanliness is just a matter of perception.
In some families, such liberal consumption of goods laced with potential health dangers is a largely taboo issue. However, it is often the best option available for those that cannot afford the plush variants of refreshing drinks that are available across town and often sold to individuals with “Cooling charges extra”. The maximum retail price is the maximum price that can be charged but we being a tolerant race as stated before, would gladly choose to lose a few extra coins than opt for the lure and marketing skills of the “Limbu-sharbat” vendor on the street.
After all, what one drinks and where one drinks it can also be what’s now regarded as a symbol of status and lifestyle.
Whichever way we opt to find our solution to the issue, the summer is here to stay and one can only guess that end of it, each one, the multinational or the local solution provider, would
“Make hay while the sun shines”