The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, chill out with Laloo cola

New Delhi, June 16: Watch out, Coke and Pepsi! Laloo’s “Mattha Cola” is here.

Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav’s latest cocktail of a little curd and water, sugared or salted, is proving to be really “cool” at stations in Delhi.

If Laloo Prasad went “green” by replacing plastic cups with kulhars (earthen pots) in trains and at stations to serve tea and coffee, the newly-created Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation has discovered the worth of a home-grown recipe.

Two days ago, it introduced mattha (salted buttermilk) and lassi (sweet buttermilk) at its stalls.

The drink — ideal to beat the summer heat and humidity — appeared in white tetrapacks.

Unlike colas, Mattha Cola, as it has been dubbed by enthusiasts, does not run the risk of violating patents, whoever is marketing it. Nor is there any mystery over that “secret” ingredient which adds the taste that no one else can copy. And though it doesn’t come cheap — its large pack is priced at a rather cola competitive Rs 10 — no one can deny it is healthy.

Mattha Cola packs are fast disappearing from the shelves of railway catering stalls at the capital’s three stations at New Delhi, Old Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin.

P.J. John, a waiter at the Northern Railway stall in New Delhi station, said they have been stocking the drink since the beginning of this week.

“The snack bar at platform number 1 of the station and all the IRCTC canteens are stocking it. The first day we kept 50 packets and it was completely sold out because the railway staff here really liked it and bought all the packs. After that we have ordered about 150 packets.”

A look at the stall’s freezer said it all. By 2 pm, when the Delhi sun was at its zenith, the freezer in John’s stall was down to its last few packs.

Pointing to the fountain cola machines, John said: “If marketed properly, mattha and lassi can stop Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Of course, most people prefer the salted one. Most end up buying Pepsi or Coca-Cola at smaller stations because lassi or mattha is not available there.”

Lieutenant Mukesh Srivastav is all for the new stuff. The Gorkha Rifles soldier, who had come to the station with his brother Vinay to take a train to Lucknow, was busy buying a mattha pack.

Pointing to a bottle of mineral water he was carrying, Srivastav said: “I usually prefer water. I don’t like Pepsi, Coca-Cola or any other drink. But it is very good as they have introduced mattha. I thought I would like to take some of it.”

Anita Mehta sipped from a Mattha Cola pack while waiting for her train at Old Delhi station. “It is very refreshing in this weather,” said the advertising professional. “It is healthy and can protect you from the hot weather. This is such a good change in taste.”

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