Hyderabad, May 4: Move over colas, cow urine is the new drink of choice in health-conscious Hyderabad.
Till a few days ago, signposts announcing 'Filtered and pure gomutram available' or 'Chilled gomutram available' could be seen outside restaurants and bakeries. Those have gone now, thanks to the taxman and a science awareness group who raised uncomfortable questions.
But the 'beverage' itself is still very much available, if under the counter.
Recommended by some practitioners of yoga, ayurveda and homoeopathy who claim cow urine can heal a range of ailments, echoing Morarji Desai, it is growing in popularity. Many buy sachets during their morning walk in the park.
'Most of our customers are diabetics and cancer patients,' says Balagopala Swamy, who stocks cow urine along with fruits and vegetables at his counter in Indira Park. Many customers don't want to take the sachets home fearing the family's reaction and drink it at the park itself, he adds.
Nirmal Kumar, a popular meditation and yoga exponent, says: 'Earlier, people felt insulted when I recommended it. Now, not only my students but their family members, too, consume it.'
The health fad has goshala (cow shelter) owners laughing their way to the bank.
Some 30 goshalas have been advertising their produce in local newspapers. 'We have been supplying cow urine to select clients in the past. But it is only since the last two months that the demand has grown and even common people are coming in search of it. We just filter it and sell it in bottles,' says Ananda Mai of an ashram at Kavadiguda in the city.
A prominent supplier is a goshala on the Hussainsagar tank bund, a favourite haunt of morning walkers. 'We now have a source of income to feed our animals. This is a pen for stray animals, mostly cows,' says Vishwajit Jain, who supplies about 25 litres of urine for Rs 2,500 every day. Urine is sold only in bulk from this shelter, which has about 150 cows.
Asarambapu Ashram at Shamsabad, 25 km from the city, sells the 'summer drink' in sachets of 100 ml and more for Rs 15 and above. 'We do not supply urine of ordinary or stray animals. What you consume is from the cows maintained in our ashram,' says Ghanshyam Agarwal, a trustee, with an air of superiority.
A few suppliers even have suggestions for battling the odour. 'You can kill the smell if you add some essence while consuming it. But if you store it in a bottle again, the odour returns,' says Lakshmanananda of another ashram in Gandipet, on the outskirts of the city.
Ma Snehalata of an ashram in Malkajgiri in Secunderabad says: 'Many of us take only 50 ml or two tablespoons a day'. Still, people consider it blasphemy to mention it in public.'
Some shop owners have had to take it off their shelves because not all customers like the idea. 'I am not interested in selling it if my regular customers don't like it. After all, I cannot lose my priority customers,' says Anjana Paul, who runs a boutique restaurant at Secunderabad.
Others are continuing to sell it, but unlike a few days ago, are no longer advertising the drink. An organic restaurant (that only serves vegetables grown organically, without pesticides) in Vittalwadi ' a neighbourhood in the heart of the city dominated by Jains and Marwaris ' took off the signboard this week. This was after the commercial tax department officials paid a visit to find out if VAT was being paid on the 'beverage of gomutram' sold in sachets and bottles. When told they were not, the officials warned that the restaurant would be liable to penalty.
'We withdrew the board and also took the product off the shelves,' said the proprietor of the restaurant who did not want to be named.
But the 'drink' is still sold, without a label, to a select crowd referred by the yoga and ayurveda practitioners. 'It is offered as a service more than a commercial activity,' he said.
The restaurant also had visitors from Jana Vijnana Veduka (Science Awareness Campaign), who argued that a product that is not tested and certified should not be sold as medicine. The owner said cow urine will 'be sold only on prescription and perhaps within a society of those who want it'.
As cow urine does booming business, can the fakes be far behind' The city has a supply of about 500 litres a day, but now buffalo urine and that of other animals are being passed off as the real thing. 'Spurious products have sprung up from nowhere,' says Prashant Kumar Vyas, a supplier from Siddiambar bazaar.