There was a time, years and years ago, when a visit to a friend's or a relative's place on a hot summer day meant a tall glass of doodh lassi or dahi lassi. For those of us who grew up in the Hindi heartland, it was one way of helping us combat the effects of the infamous loo or the hot winds of the North. A doodh lassi is a chilled drink made of milk and water. It is sugared and iced, and then served as a light beverage when the temperature starts to soar. But I can't recall when I last had a glass of milk lassi.
If there is a good thing about summer, it's the fact that there are all kinds of fruit juices, sherbets and lassis for you to drink. My favourite is the sweet lassi. Nowadays, you will find on every street corner a dhaba or a theley-wallah with a sign declaring the vendor as Sharmajee or Guptajee Lassiwale and his lassi as the best in town. But I am a little finicky about my lassi. Having grown up in the cowbelt (more a buffalo belt, if you ask me), I have doodh and lassi in my veins. And for that, the milk has to be thick and creamy.
Whenever I want some good lassi, I go to Pakodimal doodhwala's shop in Naya Bans. Legend has it that this shop is the oldest doodh shop in Delhi. You have to go to Khari Baoli, the spice market, and walk down to the opening of Naya Bans. You'll know that you have reached the mouth of Naya Bans when your nostrils get invaded by the smell of hing emanating from some delicious kachoris (but about that, another week). Pakodimal's shop is three stalls down the lane, on your left.
It's a small, unassuming shop, and many believe that the man who makes the lassis is older than Delhi. He is a cranky old man, so I am always on my best behaviour when I am there. I had heard about a shaharwallah who had made the mistake of asking the old man to hurry up. The old man returned the client his money and refused to make him his lassi. I like his attitude. When you are the oldest man around and make the best lassis in town, you are entitled to your moods.
I always ask for a burfi wali lassi when I am there. The old man puts a burfi in a vessel and then crushes it to a smooth paste. To this he adds some dahi, sugar and water. He then churns it with his scarred hands - said to be battered out of shape by the water that his hands are always immersed in. The lassi costs Rs 15. The shop also sells milk, curds and other dairy products. People buy their dahi and often eat it there and then with some salt and masalas laid out on the side. Old-timers tell me that a poor man who wants curds worth two rupees is accorded the same respect as the rich client buying stuff by the kilos. That is, of course, if nobody makes the mistake of asking the old man to hurry.