March is here and the Sun is beating down hard on Vizag already. As the temperatures are soaring with each passing day, people have begun queuing up at stalls selling chilled and colourful summer drinks. Local coolers like Sugandhi and Maaredu have been the crowd-favourites in the city for the longest time. These refreshingly zesty drinks are best consumed with a dash of lemon and crushed ice. Serving these delicious and healthy juices near Gurudwara Junction in Vizag, Ramanamma, a 45-year-old sherbet-maker shares her story with Sruthi Sahini.
“Sugandhi and Maaredu juices are made from the roots of the plants. Usually, these roots are soaked in water for over four days. They are then boiled along with jaggery to yield a sweet concoction that can be stored for up to two months.
As a child, I grew up watching my father make these drinks at his cart in Jagadamba. He would concoct the syrups with fervour and cater to his customers with utmost sincerity. At 11, I joined as his helper. I’d follow him at work and carefully observe from where he procured raw materials. Soon after, I’d learnt the tips and tricks that went into making the sherbet.
Our lives came to a standstill after my father had passed away. Being the eldest of the family, I stepped in to take the responsibility of looking after his business. Though I wasn’t as successful as my father, I managed to run the cart for the next five years until my brother took over the trade.
At 16, I got married. With two girls, I had no time left to think about sherbet business again. It was only after my daughters were settled in their lives, I wished to have my own local coolers cart. Pooling up my savings, I purchased a bandi and a soda maker and set up ‘Sri Lakshmi Ganapati Cool Drinks’ in 2015. Ever since, my life has been nothing less than a rollercoaster ride, given the uncertainty of the business.
During the lockdown in 2020, I was unable to run my cart, like every other business person. With not many people venturing out last year, making ends meet wasn’t an easy task. My loyal customers, however, came to my rescue, as they began ordering bottled Sugandhi and Maaredu juice concentrates for themselves and their families.
With the onset of summer, things are starting to look up now. The menu at my stall changes depending upon the availability of fruits. Currently, we are serving mango and strawberry milkshakes, along with Sugandhi, Maaredu, and Cola. On a good day, I manage to earn up to Rs 600, while on some days the daily income drops to as low as Rs 250.
Despite the shortcomings of this business, I have no plans of quitting my sherbet bandi. I wish to continue my father’s legacy and perhaps someday be called as one of the best sherbet-makers here in Vizag.”
Location: Near Karur Vysya Bank, Seetammadhara