Before being offered soda drinks and cold coffee after a hot day outside, there was a time in India when a glass of chilled refresher was synonymous to Rooh Afza. Although it is still used as a welcome drink in Indian households specifically amidst the Muslim ménage, this year during Ramzan, Rooh Afza faced a parlous crisis.
As the world twirled into a frenzy about this scarlet-hued refresher’s lapse from the Indian markets, here’s a quick rewind to know more about this humble crimson-tinted syrup from Pakistan and how it settled in Dilli’s dil.
There is also an old saying that states, “when the motor car was on its way in and the horse buggy on its way out, Sharbat Rooh Afza was there" which aptly proves how this drink has been through renaissance time and again!
Founded by Abdul Majeed in Old Delhi in 1907,
this sharbat has been a witness of the birth of 3 countries, economical reforms, the surge of carbonated drinks and tetra-pack juices and so much more. But it still stands tall as a summer classic and a sip of this rose-tinted coolant actually tastes like nostalgia of the bygone era.
Abdul Majeed created Hamdard which was an ‘Unani Medicine’ shop in the by-lanes of old Dilli but soon he passed away, leaving behind the business to both his sons! Partition took place and one of the brothers shifted to Pakistan and started the same company from scratch while the other one stayed back building on the established business.
Rooh Afza was used as a medicinal drink to treat conditions like heat stroke, dehydration and diarrhoea which is why this drink became a summer favourite later on. So this was a local pharmaceutical company which evolved into a national welfare organisation called the Waqf by 1953. It is presently manufacturing under the name of Hamdard (Waqf) Laboratories in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
The name calling!
According to various sources, this saccharine ruby tonic’s name was derived from a character in the book- Masnavi Gulzar-e-Nasim by Pandit Deya Shankar Nasim and was first published in 1254. Rooh Afza is also termed as the ‘Summer drink of the East’ and it is truly a relief to slake our thirst at iftaar or after a brief stint out in the sun with this iconic beverage.
It has been said that the original recipe of the drink has remain unchanged although the producers have been actively trying to modify the drink’s promotions every year. Some of the major ingredients include rose and keora pulp, fresh extracts from carrot, spinach, mint, dried grapes, sandalwood, waterlilies, in addition to orange and pineapple juices.
The look of Rooh Afza has remained unaltered too along with the taste. It is sold in trademark 700 ml glass bottles with a hand-drawn label by artist Mirza Noor Ahmad which showcases illustrations of fruits, herbs and flowers.
The scarcity of this mass favourite syrup earlier in India prompted a discussions and searches for it online and offline. Khair, now that it has been resolved you can expect a a chilled glass of your favourite drink.