Every year, when the last traces of snow and chill have disappeared and the golden daffodils and tulips have sprung up all around, my spirits lift and my ears strain to catch the melodious jingle of the ice cream truck in the neighbourhood. The child in me comes alive every spring.
I give in to my cravings and feast on the vanilla and chocolate cones a few times every summer, much to the mirth of the better half (he must be secretly relieved that I don’t chase the ice cream man, like the kids in the park do.) I try my best to hide the childlike joy as I place my order but I suspect the ice cream man has seen through the game. Never mind. Oh, the heavenly bliss of the creamy texture of the treat. The sugar and calories are all forgotten in my current juvenile state
Actually, the ice cream itself is nothing exceptional. More significant is the ice cream truck that stands for the joys of childhood. It is the mood, the feeling, the excitement that causes the drama. Back in India, where I grew up, there was no ice cream truck. But there was the ‘kulfiwalla’ announcing his grand arrival every afternoon with the jingle of a bell. I would always marvel at the homegrown ‘technology’ that kept the creamy, conical treats solid and chilled even in the cart even during the searing summer heat! How can I ever forget my first lick of delicious ‘kulfi’ bought for 10 paise from the ‘kulfiwalla’ outside my school? He would swiftly take out one conical metal mould from a big, rectangular box, ‘unmould’ the content and hand the ‘kulfi’ to this eager kid, with a flourish, much like a magician producing a rabbit out of his hat! Yes, to us starry-eyed kids he was a magician.
Another object of fascination while growing up was the colourful ‘chuski’ or ice ‘gola‘. Parents were always wary for reasons of health and hygiene. Diktats to keep away were common. But for us kids, it was mesmerizing to watch the ‘uncle’ take a chunk of ice, swiftly grate it, press the grated ice around an ice cream stick, spray our favourite cola or orange flavour on it and voila, the tantalising popsicle was ready to be relished. Breaking the rules gave us cheap thrills and, I suspect, enhanced our enjoyment of the popsicle.
I am not a fan of street food despite having lived long in Delhi, often called the street food capital of the country. But I did make an exception for the yummy chuski delights at India Gate. I simply loved the ‘kala khatta’, which had the spicy tang of chaat masala. The ambience of the majestic Rajpath and India Gate gave a royal touch to the humble chuski.
Later, there were the ‘ice-cream wallahs’ selling different brands of ice cream in their carts. There were fancy ice cream parlours offering a wide array of innovative frozen delights. And now, there are stores that offer the best ice cream, frozen yoghurt, fudge and kulfi. Without a doubt, yummy treats all. But to be honest, they are just not the same. There is no tinkle of bells or the jingle of the truck. Or the sound of the soft grated ice. No thrill sans the trill, I guess.
The child in me wants some drama in real life. To chill, one summer every year. What do you say?