Old-timers nos­tal­gic about this erst­while Parsi brand

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY -

The new project, “a lux­u­ri­ous de­vel­op­ment with ameni­ties like a large gar­den and a club house”, will take 2.5 years to com­plete and may ten­ta­tively in­cor­po­rate a struc­ture rem­i­nis­cent of the iconic bot­tle although Makhija points out that the de­sign hasn’t been fi­nalised. But there are other as­pects of the fac­tory that res­i­dents will miss, like the 9am and 9pm fac­tory siren—house­wife Or­lena Ay­yar would set her watch by it— and the end of the Duke’s Gan­pati. “For 12 days, our lane would be hum­ming with ac­tiv­ity,” re­calls Ay­yar. “It was such a big Gan­pati that ven­dors would set up an in­for­mal ‘mela’ with fer­ris wheels and stalls.” The Ay­yars have even had to of­fi­cially change their ad­dress. “Our MTNL bill used to read, ‘Op­po­site Duke’s Fac­tory,’” added Ay­yar, “but we’ve had to change it.”

The soft drink com­pany Duke and Sons Pvt Ltd was es­tab­lished in 1889 by Dinsh­waji Cooverji Pan­dole, a school teacher, who was also a bowler for the Parsi Cricket Eleven. He trav­elled to Eng­land for a match in 1886 where he was struck by the pop­u­lar­ity of bot­tled soft drinks. He de­cided to launch an indige­nous brand from Bom­bay. The name was bor­rowed from a cricket ball man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, whose balls he be­lieved were lucky for him. The first Duke’s fac­tory was in Khet­wadi, ad­ja­cent to Cama Baug, be­fore it moved to Chem­bur in the early seven­ties, says 80-year-old Din­shaw Pan­dole, great grand­son of the founder.

Pan­dole worked in the fac­tory from 1962 un­til the fam­ily sold the busi­ness along with the plant to Pep­siCo in 1994 when mar­ket dy­nam­ics changed be­cause of the en­try of in­ter­na­tional play­ers. “It was one of the lead­ing re­gional soft drink brands and the three main prod­ucts in its arse­nal were Duke’s Soda, Le­mon­ade and Man­gola,” says Pan­dole’s son, Dar­ius, who helped man­age the fac­tory for a few years be­fore it was sold. Af­ter tak­ing over the plant, Pep­siCo con­tin­ued op­er­a­tions there till 2013 un­til struc­tural safety con­cerns arose, which is when they moved the pro­duc­tion of Duke’s prod­ucts to their Mahul plant.

“Duke’s much-cel­e­brated flavours have been part of ev­ery Mum­baikar’s life and the brand con­tin­ues to be loved by con­sumers,” said a Pep­siCo spokesper­son. The brand is still avail­able in And­heri, Chem­bur, Vashi, Thane and south Mum­bai but it’s hard to spot out­side of Parsi ‘la­gans’ and ‘navjotes’. When Din­shaw Pan­dole does see it, how­ever, he con­fesses to feel­ing a sense of “loss”. But Chem­bur res­i­dents are over­come with nos­tal­gia. Jad­hav re­calls his school days when Man­gola was avail­able for just Rs 4.50, while Ay­yar re­calls her col­lege group chip­ping in to buy a sin­gle bot­tle of Duke’s Le­mon­ade. “It’s a home­grown In­dian brand,” says Jad­hav, “so I have a great at­tach­ment to it.”

S L Shanth Ku­mar

This 2.5 acre plot is be­ing re­de­vel­oped into three res­i­den­tial tow­ers

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