I’m on much firmer ground with Thums Up, the great Indian cola with the
misspelled name and the extravagant flavour curve. In India, as purchased from your
average hole in the wall, Thums Up should deliver a precise sequence of sensations:
first, a slight salty grubbiness around the mouth of the glass bottle, which has been
cleaned and reused countless times and still feels never quite clean enough; next, a
surge of fizz, rowdier than in Pepsi or Coke, so powerful that it will tickle the very tips
of your ears; then a faint intermezzo of saccharine before the final kick of what can only
be called spice, a trumpeted announcement of its Indianness. Running through it all is
an insistent bass line: memories of soft drink counters at weddings and pineapple cake
at birthday parties, of long, torrid summers and limited pocket money and post-school
afternoons and Old Monk rum, for all of which Thums Up has been the only imaginable
accompaniment in India for 33 years now.