Free ‘beer’ from neem tree in North Campus keeping Delhi Univ’s spirits high

Get a swig of “neem beer” in the shade of a therapeutic tree on Delhi University’s North Campus, which is keeping poor tipplers high and hydrated for the past five months.
A neem tree in Delhi University’s North Campus is excreting a sap that is suspected to be toddy.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)
A neem tree in Delhi University’s North Campus is excreting a sap that is suspected to be toddy.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)
Updated on Mar 24, 2017 09:04 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

There is an open bar in the Delhi University, and it’s absolutely free!

Poor tipplers in North Campus have been using “neem beer” from a local tree for the past four months to stay high and hydrated. Several people, mostly labourers working in the university, queue up with containers near the freak neem tree for their daily fix. They like it better than off-the-shelf liquor; moreover, it comes free.

“A neem tree has been secreting a white liquid since November 2016. It smells of toddy (naturally alcoholic sap of palm) and tastes somewhat bitter. But people from the campus and outside collect it to drink. They say it is intoxicating,” said Mahesh Prasad, the head gardener of North Campus.

There are around 15 neem trees near the rugby stadium towards the back end of the campus, most of which are more than 50 years old.

But only one tree is giving out the sap — at least 10 litres a day.

“This is unusual. It is for the first time that we have witnessed anything of this sort in Delhi,” said CR Babu, professor emeritus at Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE) in Delhi University.

Like any watering hole, it’s easy to locate the inebriating tree. The strong beer-like scent can be smelled at least 10 feet, or even more, from the tree. The charade of bottles, buckets and pitchers is also a good enough sign.

“I had two to three glasses of the toddy. It was quite intoxicating. I didn’t fall ill after that. As it is a neem tree, I think, it also has some medicinal properties,” said a labourer, in high spirits.

Someone has also placed a ladder and tied a bucket right at the source. Not a drop to be wasted.

“The liquid was coming out from near a joint of two branches. But then, it stopped and started to come out from a different place. The flow is gradually slowing down. The smell is also becoming weaker,” said Vikrant Goswami, a scientific assistant at CEMDE.

Scientists from the university’s department of environmental studies are testing — in the laboratory — samples of the liquid.

“We suspect it is not the kind of toddy which we usually get from palm trees. There is some kind of microbial activity going on inside the tree. The microbe is helping the tree sap to ferment,” said Dr David Kothamasi, assistant professor at the department.

It would take at least a month for the test results to be available. In the lab, too, the bottle in which the toddy has been capped started to inflate when its cap was sealed. That’s a signal that the fermentation process has not stopped.

Scientists said a similar incident was reported in Varanasi a few years ago. Tests revealed the presence of salicyclic acid, a key ingredient in aspirin.

The evergreen neem is the magic tree of Ayurvedic medicine, and is called sarva roga nivarini or the one that prevents and cures all diseases. The one at DU is keeping the spirits high.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Joydeep Thakur is a Special Correspondent based in Kolkata. He focuses on science, environment, wildlife, agriculture and other related issues.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The Noida police said they are on alert and taking all precautions after the Udaipur incident. (Representative Image)

    Noida man arrested for supporting Udaipur killing

    A Noida resident was arrested on Thursday from Sector 168 for supporting the Udaipur killing incident through Asif Khan, 23, who lives in Chaprauli village near Sector 168 and works as a welder in his father's shop's social media posts after a written complaint was made by another resident, police said. In Udaipur, a tailor, Kanhaiya Lal, was brutally beheaded on Tuesday allegedly for supporting Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma, who was suspended after her comment on Prophet Mohammed, in a social media post.

  • Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai. (PTI Image)

    Udaipur tailor's murder an 'act of terror', says Karnataka CM Bommai

    Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Thursday referred to the Udaipur murder case, terming it 'an act of terror' and alleging a bigger international conspiracy behind the incident. The CM demanded the case be investigated thoroughly, news agency PTI reported. On Tuesday, a Hindu tailor, Kanhaiya Lal, was murdered brutally by two Muslim men - Riaz Akhtari and Ghouse Mohammad - at his shop. They even threatened prime minister Narendra Modi.

  • Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in a police van. (ANI Image) 

    Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in Bengaluru; Delhi police search his home

    The co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, Mohammed Zubair, on Thursday was brought to Bengaluru by a team from Delhi Police's Special Cell who searched his home in connection with the case registered against him, news agency PTI reported. His lawyer, Kawalpreet Kaur, said police knew Zubair lost his phone. Police, meanwhile, are also looking into Zubair's financial transactions - a move his colleague and Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha has slammed.

  • Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik. (PTI)

    Hindu outfits to start 'I'm Nupur Sharma Supporter' campaign: Ram Sene leader

    Condemning the the brutal killing of a tailor in Udaipur, Sri Rama Sene leader Pramod Mutalik stated that Hindu society will not tolerate such acts of terror, and demanded capital punishment for those involved in the killing. He said the 'Yuva Brigade', 'Hindu Jana Jagruti Samiti', 'Sri Rama Sene' and other Hindu organisations together will launch a large campaign "I'm Kanhaiya Lal", "I'm Nupur Sharma Supporter" from Thursday.

  • Police have said that all persons who spoke to Javed Mohd before June 10 violence at Atala may be called for questioning.

    Atala violence: Cops likely to question 2 ex-MLAs who were in touch with Javed

    The Uttar Pradesh police may soon question two former members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) after scanning the call details of Javed Mohd aka Javed Pump, the alleged key facilitator of the June 10 Atala violence, people familiar with the matter said. The details of Javed's two mobile numbers reveal that he had spoken to them before the violence on June 10. Javed was arrested by the police the very next day of the incident.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, June 30, 2022