The world is divided into those who love Bovonto and those who haven’t heard of it.
For those who don’t know: it is a soft drink manufactured by Kali Marks, only slightly carbonated, with a lovely, luscious, grapey taste. It looks like a cola, is a lot sweeter than even Pepsi, but beats both it and Coke hollow in taste and satisfaction.
Ask any Bovonto lover. Unlike its high profile peers, it doesn’t go around screaming Me! Me! Drink Me! Drink Me!
If you want it, you go looking for it, and then, if you’re a true believer, you find it hidden away in a little shop somewhere in a corner. As I did, some years ago, in a snack store in the heart of the city. There it was, sitting in the cooler, waiting for me. Yes, it was waiting for me. I know it was waiting for me because for one, it could have been carted away by anyone else, but it wasn’t. And for another, it wasn’t there in the store two stores away, nor even two kilometres.
Ever since I never leave this particular shop without the beloved Bovonto in my shopping bag. Since then too, I have converted my husband into a Bovontoholic, and inducted several others into the circle of B-love.
I remember one day, on our way home from somewhere fairly early in the morning, my husband and I had swung by to pick up our favourite drink. As we waited for the shop assistant to tot up the bill, an elderly gentleman all huff-puffy and sweaty, crashed into the tiny space, crushed past us, and reached into the cooler for – Bovonto!
Quickly, he quaffed it and then, with a big grin, declared: “Abba! Soooo nice! If I tell my wife I had Bovonto, she will be very angry with me! I went for a walk you know…”
He was sooooo happy and so were we! Another time, a colleague and I (in an earlier job) were despatched to retrieve the advance we had paid to the owner of a building that we had rented as a godown for books.
Now this owner was a shady customer, known to have political (mis)-connections – all this we came to know after the fact. His office was decorated with photographs of self with this and that ‘important’ person, and certificates of this and that. Later, we heard he was also called upon to serve a prison sentence. Anyway, that morning, there we were, sitting in his office. He despatched his son to get us a cool drink, and what should the boy come back with but…Bovonto!
“ Onnuthaan kedachudu appa ,” the boy said. (I managed to get only one, dad.) “ Parvaillai , never mind!” we chorused together and matched each other, glug for glug, and it was gone in a jiffy. Just for the heck of it, I checked out Bovonto online. It doesn’t have an oho! presence in cyberspace, but it’s there for the seeking.
It appears Bovonto was born in 1916 in Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu – yes, it is essentially a Tamil Nadu drink – apparently the creation of one P.V.S.K. Palaniappa Nadar.
Presently, it’s the fourth generation of this family that’s continuing to make it available to thirsting folks like yours truly. I promise you, one sip and you will be smitten.