Vendors are doing a roaring business in Palayamkottai writes P. Sudhakar

Almost all leading juice shops, which ensure minimum cleanliness at least to some extent, are now overflowing with customers as summer has set in mercilessly. A sizable chunk of the present day youth go in for chilled soft drinks being marketed by transnational companies to beat the heat. Those who carry bulky wallets all the time can afford these methods of neutralizing the heat effect.

However, it is nice to see those who douse the heat through traditional methods that are similar in almost all places, especially in southern Tamil Nadu. Giving permanent relief from the heat are ‘pathaneer’ (palmyra juice), ‘nongu’ (ice apple), keppai koozh (ragi porridge), tender coconuts and watermelon. None of these natural products have any ingredient which is harmful to health. It’s quite natural that the consumer base for these products is widening everyday at rapid pace with the number of roadside shops selling them increasing day by day.

In Tirunelveli district, which once had several thousands of palmyrah tree, ‘pathaneer’ is brought only from a few select areas such as Surandai, Kadaiyalurutti and Paruththipaadu. Sensing the heavy demand for ‘pathaneer,’ nearly 100 vendors can be seen in and around Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai, selling this delicious and highly-nutritious drink in cycles and two-wheelers. Unfortunately, most of them are selling only adulterated ‘pathaneer’ as they add water to the natural drink and also saccharine to increase its sweetness.

Though those who hail from villages can easily identify the exact taste of original ‘pathaneer,’ the urban residents continue to fall prey to this adulterated commodity. The common man’s repeated appeal to the Department of Public Health or Tirunelveli Corporation to take action against them for selling this adulterated drink is yet to be heard.

Both ‘nongu’ and ‘pathaneer’ are rich in carbohydrates and moisture content. They provide plenty of minerals such as calcium, phosphorous and iron, along with fibres and proteins to the body. ‘Nongu’ contains Vitamins A, B and C in the form of ascorbic acid. It is perfect for the figure-conscious as it contains zero fat. The pulp is highly nutritious and the fibrous outer layer mitigates the body heat. Application of ‘pathaneer’ on the body cures boils, rashes and dermatitis.

Even before the officials could come to the rescue of the complainants against adulterated ‘pathaneer’, a group of palmyrah tree climbers from Barbarammalpuram near Nanguneri had set up outlets at three points in Palayamkottai a couple of years ago to sell pure ‘pathaneer,’ for which there was a huge demand. However, without any reason, this sale did not last for long owing to lack of coordination among the palmyrah climbers.

Demand for ‘koozh,; being sold with mouth-watering side-dishes, is also on the rise every year as the small town of Palayamkottai has more than a hundred roadside sellers offering this health drink. As ragi is not crushed in the traditional method and is being powdered by the machines, it lacks the ‘traditional taste.’

If the official machinery is really serious about popularising these health drinks, exclusive stalls can be opened at select places to be run by the self-help group members.