Ordering dinner at the counter at a vegetarian restaurant here in Vienna, looking over into the cold case to choose my drink and seeing Thum’s Up! cola, which I hadn’t seen or tasted since I was in India fourteen years ago. Drinking it with dinner, I could smell so many other things from that summer: the strands of jasmine in the markets and taxicabs, the sweat of our bodies working in the summer heat, the crisp air of the air conditioned sari shops, the dirt and the animals in the street. Not at all unpleasant, these olfactory memories.
I also remembered how good that cola tasted after weeks of drinking water that was still hot from boiling or weak kool-aid made from said hot water. Carbonation! Sugar! To us American teenagers, it was a little bit of heaven. (That summer, I also had chai tea for the first time; I felt very hip when, about a year later, it appeared at Starbucks and other coffee shops here at home. “Oh yeah, I had that in India…”)
As I left the restaurant after dinner, the owner ran out after me with another bottle. “A gift,” he said, and encouraged me to keep it on the shelf in my refrigerator, unopened, so that I could see it every day and remember.
Two notable summers find their connection – 1993, age 17, building a church in India; 2007, age 31, singing an opera in Virginia – both times thrilled to see a Thum’s Up!
(Thanks to EN for the photographic evidence!)