The recent increase in the price of Verka lassi brought back memories of the good old days when the quencher would flow freely in the villages of Punjab and Haryana.
At that time, there was no shortage of milk for the family's and even the neighbour's consumption.
Selling milk was considered a sin. A Punjabi saying often heard was, 'Jihne dudh veich dita, ohne put veich dita (Selling milk is akin to selling one's son)'. Milk was in abundance, so people would churn it to make lassi else the milk was used to make ghee and butter. No doubt lassi was an enjoyable drink and was in great demand, particularly in summer.
As a child, I would often go to my uncle's house in the village. Since we did not get enough milk from our buffaloes, it was my duty was to bring lassi from a house that did not happen to be near ours. I remember many people would visit that house for lassi. The women of that house would cheerfully render the free service. It was the generosity of that house that it was famous as 'Lassi waleyan da ghar' in the village. There used to be many such houses in every village.
Everyone used to be fond of lassi. Migrant labourers working in the fields would prefer lassi to tea with their breakfast. Most of the guests coming from the cities were always in search of lassi.
Whenever our uncle from Chandigarh would come visiting, we had to arrange extra lassi for him in advance. Once, he cut short his stay as lassi was not available for some days and then there was another time that he put off an important work in the state capital simply to quench his lassi thirst.
During weddings, lassi used to be in great demand. We would collect it in abundance for 'Hangover Day'. Most baraats used to stay up at night, so normally there would be a booze session in the evening and lassi session the next morning.
Nowadays, things are entirely different. In these times of rising prices of milk products, villagers have resorted to selling milk. All taboos attached with selling milk have become a thing of the past. Not much milk is saved to make lassi. The focus is on selling more and more milk. If some houses do make lassi, they do not give it to others. It is always for their personal use.
Village folk who have shifted to cities satiate their lassi thirst with a visit to the market and pay for the drink that is available in tetra packs or sold at shops. While gulping the drink, they can't help recalling the good old lassi culture of the villages when they didn't have to shell out a single paisa to enjoy this pure desi drink.
The irony today is finding that Verka booths have made their way to villages. But there is an interesting trend too: nowadays city residents seem to enjoy lassi more than their rural counterparts.