Tamil Nadu’s Goli Soda Is Good for Nostalgia, Not So Much to Drink

Whether you’re into Pepsi and Coke or not, the ‘goli soda’ isn’t safe any more, except to write stories about.

3 min read
Tamil Nadu’s Goli Soda Is Good for Nostalgia, Not So Much to Drink

‘Goli soda’ is the name of an up-cycle boutique. And when you name a product after a store that sells what once was junk, it's a sure sign that said product is obsolete, or on its way there.

Someone somewhere climbed on to the hyper-nationalism high-horse during the Jallikattu protests and proposed a ban on 'foreign brands' that are sucking up the waters from Tamil Nadu’s rivers.

‘Drink Bovonto, instead!’ was the oft repeated refrain. As if Bovonto dips smaller straws into the Thamirabarani river!
As if Bovonto dips smaller straws into the Thamirabarani river! (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Bovonto)

In any case, the carbonation around Jallikattu has fizzled out months ago. And so, what (part of) the Tamil Nadu Traders’ Association have proposed is more of a ban-gaffe and less of a ban.

Although, this is a good time to reminisce about the 'goli soda' (Banta in the north), which was the every-man drink in Tamil Nadu, before the colas entered in '93.

Riots to Remember

Whether it's a street-fight between two opposing gangs in Saidapet, or a full on riot between two different 'Katchi' (political parties); you need the ‘goli soda’ bottle.

There's two ways of using it. These bottles are heavier than the usual crown-topped bottles that the coloured drinks come in. When empty, they're quite handy, and also quite hardy as missiles. In the late 70’s, in the suburbs of Madurai, gangs would often build temples by the road, and carry on with their clandestine activities.

When empty, these bottles are quite handy and hardy as missiles. (Photo: Altered by The Quint)

When the authorities attempt to demolish the temple, the 'goli soda' bottles, already stashed in sacks (each gunny sack would hold 75 bottles, roughly) would come out flying.

The richer gangs would opt for unopened, full bottles, which burst on impact.

Today, riots and street fights continue, minus the temples – and the ‘goli soda’ bottles. They made better stories in the 70’s, don't you think?

Pop the Nut, Punch the Ball

I don't know if Hiram Codd – inventor of Codd-neck-bottle – was into innuendo in the 1870’s. He looks like a serious person in his Daguerreotype (grainy, sepia-tone photo). But the allusion to the glass marble in the bottle's neck with the male testes has not been lost to anyone else who drank from said bottle, across the globe.

It is basic knowledge that the fizz in the drink pushes up the marble and seals the neck of the bottle. That's just boring science.

What’s interesting is the different ways in which the marble is ‘popped’. In general, in Tamil Nadu, the thumb is placed on the ‘nut’ (not ball), while the rest of the fingers hold the bottle.
What’s interesting is the different ways in which the marble is ‘popped’. (Photo: Altered by The Quint)

The other hand rams down the thumb, to unleash the sound of nirvana on a sunny day, along with the innuendo. Experts use different fingers, and some do it with just one hand. Many a neophite's finger-bone, as well as equally fragile ego, have shattered in an attempt to eviscerate machismo out of the bottle.

The 'globe-stoppered bottle', is what Hiram called it in his patent, back in the day. Hmm.

Reminisce, Don't Drink

I don't know about constitutional rights, but Tamil folk seem to have had a stronger constitution a generation ago. By the late 80’s, complaints of nausea and diarrhoea after swigging a ‘goli soda’ increased, and the drink soon fizzled out of the urban thirst radar.

Whether you're into Pepsi and Coke, or not, the ‘goli soda’ isn't safe any more, except to write stories about. The stories though, have aged quite well.

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