Over the past week, the hottest thing on social media was a drink! People posted videos of drinking it while every status and post had something to do about it — some even raising health concerns. The new fizzy drink — fuljar soda — became such a tremendous hit all over Kerala that those who haven’t tasted it yet queued up in front of shops, curious to know what all the fuss was about. A distant cousin of lime soda, with added mint and ginger paste, the drink gave a whole new feel. Long queues were seen in front of shops in Kochi, especially at High Court Junction and Palarivattom. But, a day after reports spread on a second spell of Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, the queues have disappeared. Vendors are still in disbelief over the short-lived glory of the latest fizzy drink.
Mani aka High Court Mani, who is a familiar face for many at High Court Junction, says, “It tastes both spicy and salty, and refreshes you instantly on a hot day. However, since the news of a Nipah case spread, the sale of bittersweet drink has suffered a big blow.” The Nipah scare had hit hard fruit sellers in the state last year. Now, juice shop owners say people have become reluctant to buy the drink.
Hospitals have set up isolation wards and authorities are monitoring potential cases after a student tested positive for Nipah virus that killed 17 people in the state last year. The student was hospitalised with high fever in Kochi 10 days ago, Health Minister K.K. Shylaja told reporters after a review meeting at Kalamassery Medical College. The National Institute of Virology, Pune, has confirmed that the 23-year-old student has been infected with Nipah virus.
A juice shop on Kaloor-Elamkulam road has reduced the price of a glass of fuljar soda by `5 to see if that helps. “For the last few days, we had been getting a lot of customers and I and my helper could not handle the rush in the shop. People were curious and would take videos and photos (of the drink) so that they can upload them on social media with hashtags,” says Irshad, a shop owner. “The same social media is spreading news about the Nipah virus and we don’t know if it is true or not, but it has definitely affected the sales.” Just as he is explaining, though the news has affected the sales, people are still pulling over their vehicles to try it once.
A few metres away, a juice shop has introduced another soft drink which they call ‘kalathil sarbath’, a frothy drink made of fruit essences, ginger and a balanced mix of salt and sugar. “This will be the successor of fuljar,” says the shop owner, as he filled each earthen pot.
Though the Health Department has not given any warning against consuming soft drinks or water from way-side shops, people are scared. It’s the peak season, and sales of soft drinks and local varieties of other food items have been dealt with a huge blow.