Odissi danseuse Mitali Varadkar recommends pakhalo bhaat. Made with fermented rice, it is offered to Lord Jagannath at Puri and is known to take care of dehydration and loss of electrolytes due to heavy sweating. Pic Courtesy/Preyas Keluskar
Mercury levels are refusing to come down, and in some parts of India, the humidity is making it worse. The India Meteorological Department called this a 122-year high, and with offices just having reopened after the pandemic, not everyone is fortunate to work from home. Ayurveda wellness practitioner and yoga doctorate Dr Amit Mishra points out how the sun is known to sap our strength in the heat between April and June.
"The pitta dosha increases, weakening appetite and leads to higher consumption of liquids, further dampening it; that*s why, it is best to eat sweet, light, liquid food with some ghee at the height of summer." He advises against drinking refrigerated water and suggests drinking water stored in earthenware as it cools the water naturally. Coolants and sherbets made with the fresh extract of mango, grape, pomegranate, and sugarcane, with a dash of pepper and cardamom can be beneficial. Gulkand made from fresh rose petals is recommended for its powerful antioxidants which induce cooling and help cure burning palms, feet, eyes, and soles. He insists that you avoid alcohol and strenuous exercise and recommends a small afternoon nap since summer nights are shorter in duration. "Pranayama routines like shitali and sitkari [cooling breath for the mind and body] help manage summer heat."
Pakhalo bhaat is light and best suited for summers
Borivali resident, economics professor, and Odissi exponent Mitali Varadkar was sceptical when she was first offered this special summer dish in Odisha. "My guru Shubhada Varadkar told me it is an offering to Lord Jagannath at the Puri temple," she remembers. "I fell in love with it from the first morsel. The crunch of the onion, the bite of the chillies, and the sourness of curd with the salt made the dish feel wholesome. Light and best suited for summers it is a great way to take care of dehydration and loss of electrolytes due to heavy sweating," she says. Since rice is soaked overnight, the calorific content is reduced by 60 per cent, making it ideal for weight watchers. "The sound sleep it induces is its best benefit," says the danseuse, who vouches for its help in making the skin glow.
Nagpur-resident Vaishali Deshpande calls the tangy, sweet and sour drink chinchon Vidarbha*s greatest summer refuge
They say there are summers, and then there*s the Vidarbha summer. Nagpur-resident Vaishali Deshpande, a popular home chef, says, "When it comes to beating the heat, no cold drink, ice cream, or even aam panna comes close to the traditional tamarind panna.
Chinchon is made with tamarind pulp, jaggery, betel leaf, soaked vetiver grass strands, few grains of rice, charoli, cloves and dry coconut
This tangy, sweet, and sour drink has been Vidarbha*s summer refuge for centuries. It has tamarind pulp, jaggery, betel leaf, soaked vetiver grass strands, a few grains of rice, charoli (calumpang nuts), cloves, and some desiccated dry coconut. All this is ground fine and mixed into a litre of water and strained."
She points out how, the addition of cumin and jaggery makes this the perfect coolant and that tamarind is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, Vitamin B and C, and several antioxidants multiplying the benefits of this drink manifold."
Lucknow experiences severe heat waves every summer, locally called loo. Both Unani and Ayurveda have found great benefits in the extract of the fragrant vetiver grass or khus. "What started as a popular drink of the royals, soon became the drink of choice for the masses too," says academic and communications professional Dr Shirin Abbas, who says it is her go-to drink all year-long.
Lucknow resident Shirin Abbas enjoys the fragrance of khus. Made from vetiver grass extract, it is both cooling and refreshing
"This sherbet relieves thirst and a burning sensation due to the summer heat. It is known to purify and invigorate blood circulation and keep bladder problems at bay. It is recommended to treat boils, fever, and skin rashes due to heat. The fragrant essential oil in khus is therapeutic. It cools the mind and calms nerves," she adds.
Juhu-resident Vidhushi Solanky*s maternal grandparents are from Mhow, Madhya Pradesh where it can get really hot. "Summer across central India is the worst. To avoid heat strokes, everyone there has bael or wood apple sherbet.
To avoid heat strokes, Juhu resident Vidhushi Solanky stocks up on bael or wood apple sherbet. Pic Courtesy/Rakesh Solanky
We used to have it during our vacations there, but now, they are an integral part of our summers in the city too. It*s a digestive drink and is a rich source of vitamins and beta carotene. Apart from being a heat-buster, it also helps reduce cholesterol too," says Solanki.
Panakam and Neer Mor are rich in anti-oxidants, and the spices aid digestion
Panakam or Panagam is a traditional jaggery-based coolant, popular in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, all with minor variations, says Sion-resident Sarada Vishawanathan. "The essential ingredients are jaggery, freshly crushed pepper, and cardamom. Some regions add their souring agents like pureed boiled raw mango, lemon or tamarind extract to give it additional tang," says the non-agenarian matriarch, fondly called Sarada Amma, whose family hails from Tiruchirapalli. She swears by the benefits of this summer essential and shared that it is offered to the lord on Ram Navami, a date that marks the intensification of summer in India. It has an immediate cooling effect, says Vishwanathan. Her son Professor K Praveish V Aiyar points out how jaggery is rich in iron, magnesium, and other anti-oxidants, while the spices aid digestion. Sarada Amma also speaks of the benefits of Neer Mor in which a small bowl of beaten curd is diluted with nearly a litre of water and stored in an earthen pot. "This enhances its taste and benefits. It keeps you hydrated, improves metabolism and keeps you feeling refreshed."
Though Andheri-based filmmaker Prashant Singh was raised in Mumbai, his parents still have a deep connection with their Bihari roots. "This is the drink my parents make when they come back home from a hot day out."
Nirmal Kumar Singh insists that nothing comes quite close to sattu made from ground roasted gram, rock salt, cumin, and chilli to beat the summer heat
His father, Nirmal Singh, a former Navy man, extolls the health benefits of the humble North Indian summer drink. "It is prepared with roasted black chana, lemon juice, chillies, and cumin powder and is rich in protein, fibre, carbs, iron, calcium, and several vitamins and minerals." Prashant points out how some make a sweet version with jaggery but at the Singh household, they prefer the savoury one.
Gender equality activist Nelson Deb is welcomed in every home with rice beer. Seen here with Monahar Pegu, a Mising tribal
There are many Assamese folk songs and dances that convey the importance of brewing rice beer in the region. Gender equality activist Nelson Deb, who has been working closely with local Assamese communities, says, "Bihu or any other occasion in Assam, is not complete without rice beer.
Brewed by local communities at home, this natural yellow-white coolant is preferred in the oppressive heat and humidity. It is seen as a natural elixir enriched with probiotics, nutrients, and antioxidants which boost strength, removes fatigue, relieves pain, prevent stomach disorders, and more. Some locals even feed a few drops such rice beer to newborns."