Mr. Patel, a historian, chronicles how soda pop became fiendishly soda-popular in India; or in his finer language: “how Parsis helped shape India’s taste for soft drinks.”
The Parsis, whose name means “Persians,” are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India.
It’s hard to realize today that sugary beverages were originally adopted for their healthful benefits.
Before Mumbai completed its modern waterworks in the late 19th Century, it relied on well water, which was filthy and potentially deadly… Drinking carbonated water could be a life-saving habit. After all, carbonic acid in soda killed bacteria and viruses.
By 1913, the city boasted more than 150 licensed soda factories. Parsis played a commanding role in this trade, as is evidenced by the surnames they adopted: Sodawaterwala, Sodawaterbottlewala, and even Sodawaterbottleopenerwala.
A major limitation was bottle supply, since glass bottles cost far more than the carbonated contents poured inside. So the Marolia family [in Nizamabad] used special round-bottom bottles which were difficult to set down on flat surfaces. These encouraged customers to drink sodas in one gulp and quickly return the bottles for reuse.
(Dinyar Patel, “Fizzy nostalgia: The origins of India’s taste for soft drinks,” bbc.com, 3-22-20)
(c) 2020 JMN