Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hidden store

Walking around the Mada streets around the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, there is only one place to slake your thirst. The problem is, if you go looking for it, you are quite likely to be disappointed, for there is no indication that this store has anything capable of cooling you down. Even though the English lettering on the side indicates a 'Cool Drink Stall', the main Tamizh sign - and the display of its wares - point more towards an outlet for newspapers and magazines. 

The Kalathy store has been operating from the same location (the southern end of East Mada Street) for 87 years. When it began its operations in 1927, India was still a generation away from independence, ice was a rare - and precious - commodity and even the choice of magazines was limited. The store got by with selling home-made sweetmeats and cooling drinks, along with a lot of items needed for pujas, as well as those things needed for the devotees' material comforts. For a while in the 1960s and '70s, it was one of many stores that were selling the same things. But Kalathy outlasted them all with a killer app: their rose-milk. 

A glass of iced rose-milk here costs `12. But it is a monopoly, for none of the stores nearby have anything close to Kalathy's rose-milk. The drink takes you back to the days of playing in the dusty streets, and, clutching those 3 or 4 coins, getting a sticky toffee and the cool refresher that no mother could object to, not when it was essentially milk. Today, you can choose to have it by the glass, or if you like, you can buy a whole bottle of the essence for `80. But I am sure that I will not be able to blend the essence the way Kalathy does, to taste their signature product!

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