Probably one of the very few things in the world that effortlessly crosses the India-Pakistan border – is this lurid dark pink rose-flavored drink called Rooh Afza.
Launched in the early 1900s as a medicinal drink to combat the hot summers of the subcontinent,
this herbal concentrate includes ingredients such as purslane, chicory, vetiver, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and of course, rose, which is the overriding flavor – all of which are believed to have cooling properties!
This humble creation of a Unani medicine doctor in Delhi, Hakim Hafiz Abdul Majeed, travelled across the border after the Partition in 1947, when one of his sons moved to Pakistan, and the other stayed back in India.
The same secret formula was used to create the drink in both countries, and even the company name was kept the same – Hamdard Laboratories.
Over the years, it evolved into a major brand that became an intrinsic part of the Ramadan Iftar of almost every Indian’s childhood, especially in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Particularly during Ramadan in the Indian subcontinent, this nostalgia-tinged beverage becomes even more popular, both for its cooling effect, as well as its sugar content, which provides a much-needed energy boost after a long day of fasting.
This can only be speculated upon though, as, much like the Vimto habit in the Arabian Gulf during Ramadan, there is no real scientific basis or research available for this trend.
Both Vimto and Rooh Afza are beverages with a long history, unchanged taste, and the retro style of packaging kept intact.
Both claim to have health benefits, although in this era of increased awareness, those claims may be questionable.
And sales for both spike during Ramzan season, in the respective markets.
So entrenched is it in Ramadan culture in the Indian subcontinent that healthy eating blogs actually advise against drinking too much of it during Ramadan!
Its popularity remains unabated though.
While the classic way of drinking it is with chilled water, people experiment with various combinations – from flavoring milkshakes and smoothies with it, to using it in desserts.
Unfortunately, Rooh Afza has now run out of stock in India and Indians are expressing their displeasure over the unavailability of Rooh Afza, Particularly the Muslim Community since the beverage is widely consumed in the month of Ramadan during Iftar.
So when Rooh Afza gets back to the stores, as Pakistan Hamdard has stepped in to help, do enjoy this heavenly and refreshing drink!