ANTIQUATED THIRST QUENCHERS AT DAVAR & CO.
WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA
Well before the juggernaut of Pepsi and Coke, there was the cold drink.
Null Bazaar is perhaps not the most salubrious of locations at the height of summer, but its twisting streets throw up a handful of surprises. One of these is Davar & Co. Take your taxi up to Gol Deval and then drift through the road that unspools from the temple. Keep on until you reach the corner and there, on your left, stands that curious creation – an entire shop dedicated to the humble “cold drink”.
The decor is what is politely known as “unassuming”. Davar & Co. is nondescript, a rustic relic of Mumbai's history that is said to have opened in 1948. The proprietor hunches taciturnly over the worn cash counter while his minions sit around. A few tables and benches are strewn about the place by way of furniture. But it is a veritable oasis in the summer, a Willy Wonka-esque wonderland of rainbow-coloured syrup bottles, all ready to be transformed into icy elixirs. The shop is arrayed from floor to ceiling with them.
A board perched high above our heads tells us that milk-based drinks, cold drinks and squashes are available here. The list of squashes is very brief. The cold drinks list is rather long. What is the difference between the cold drink and the squash, we enquire? The squash is made from pure fruit extract, whereas the cold drink is a blend of fruit and essence. The milk drinks I avoid, having an intense and unmanageable dislike of the white stuff since childhood.
We order our drinks. At Davar & Co, you can get your squash in a bottle or a glass, with or without ice. If you are sturdy of heart and stomach, go for the ice.
For your own sake, I make a few gentle suggestions – if you feel like drinking the varhiali drink, stomp the urge underfoot. It's dreck. You may try it with flecks of rock salt, if you like; salt shakers sit on every table, presumably to rescue the taste of the drink. But dreck wrapped in a cloak of rock salt is still dreck.
At Davar & Co, you can get your squash in a bottle or a glass, with or without ice. If you are sturdy of heart and stomach, go for the ice.
Similarly, my friend tried the sekanjabin syrup and lamented long and loud over its synthetic flavour. However, the sekanjabin is by far the most popular syrup, so don't take my friend's word for it. In May, bottles simply fly off the shelves into thirsty traveller's shopping bags. The green mango sharbat is very sweet, but drink it with plenty of cold water and ice and a smidgen of the aforementioned rock salt and it will immediately elevate the taste.
My favourite though is the kokam (spelt “cocum”), listed neatly with nimboo, aam and orange under the Squash section. But if kokam doesn't float your boat, there are also plenty of other flavours such as rose, strawberry and phalsa, which are also nice. Taste every one. Drink as we did, until your belly is swollen with syrup. Then stagger out with bottles of the stuff.
Davar & Co., 533, Maulana Azad Road, Null Bazar, Bhuleshwar, Mumbai 400 004. Phone: 022 2346 2314