Thursday, September 30, 2010

Joy Sticks



The summer time in Kolkata was idyllic.

Every year in May, my mother, my brother and I would travel to the city and spend 2 whole blissful months there. Since there was no television in the house, the long, hot afternoons would be spent playing with cousins or cooking up some trouble. The curtains would be drawn, and the carrom board would be out on the floor. There would be Ludo and card games and there would be a huge pitcher full of homemade lemonade.

There was also another event that all of us would wait for every day. At exactly 4.30 pm, we would hear a strange guttural sound from the distance. " Ice-creeeeam wallah...Kwality ice-creeeeam..." That cry was what we waited to hear every day. A shabbily dressed man of indiscriminate age pushing a cart through the neighborhood and calling to the children. We would scamper down and order what our budget permitted. An orange bar which cost 25 paise. It was a princely sum those days, specially when you consider the fact that we had an ice cream almost every day. When an uncle or an aunt came to visit us, we would shamelessly ask for a special treat, a choco bar which cost Rs 1.50. That day was like a celebration.

The parents trusted only Kwality's, my mother thought any other ice-cream was made with  gutter water. The image of someone making ice cream with sewage water and dirty ice was so horrifying that even looking at some other carts gave us stomach cramps. So every evening, Kwality's  it was. The guy would stop at our doorstep and look up hopefully, knowing full well there would a small army of children noisily descending down the stairs. My brother, who hated orange flavour would always ask for a chocolate bar and for some reason my mother always indulged him. I strongly suspect she was biased towards her first born, but that is of course another story.

In Delhi, there was another popular brand, called Gaylord's. Now when I think about the name, it makes me burst into laughter. But those days our vocabulary was pitifully limited and we never thought about the significance of the name. Every year they would run a promotional campaign to con us into buying more from them. Some book where we would have to stick hundred stickers.Or save the wrappers of the ice creams for some prize. It goes without saying that we never managed to win anything. But the ice cream memories were priceless. Sticky fingers, dripping cream, orange tongue, and the fine art of finishing off the ice cream before the hot Delhi sun melted it down. I did not care about the hygiene or the man's filthy fingers or even those sometimes dirty wooden spoons to scoop out the ice creams. I would continue to lick even when the poor spoon broke down filling my mouth with tiny fragments of soft wood. Precisely why I personally think I never had typhoid or jaundice or even mild diarrhoea.

The ice cream experience is different these days. There are hardly any hand carts to be seen and we go to sanitised air-conditioned  parlours that boast of hundreds of flavours. Names I had not even heard of in my childhood. Tiramisu. Kiwi. Hazelnut. My ice cream vocabulary had never gone beyond orange, vanilla and chocolate. The men (or women) serve wearing disposable rubber gloves, no dirty fingernails visible. They ask  if you want an ordinary or a waffle cone (never knew about that too) and are kind enough to give you tissues to wipe those sticky fingers. There is an alternative to licking your fingers clean that I never knew existed in my childhood. The prices are unimaginable. A small, tiny cup is now Rs 60. On a single day my children spend twice as much as we did on our entire vacation.

The idyllic days of summer are long gone. Nobody stays home playing ludo with cousins anymore. We are all very busy zipping off to exotic locales for our summer vacations. The Kwality's that we knew is long gone, taken over by an international giant. But on a hot day, under the scorching sun, I still stop by, with my kids, to indulge my taste buds. Take a stick of coco-vanilla, lick it, swirl it around my tongue and savour the taste of unadulterated joy. "Ice-creeeam..."



Some children obviously never grow up.

27 comments:

dr.antony said...

Mine are earlier memories.There was a man who used to come to the school on a bicycle and an ice box.He used to sell us ice sticks.Red,white and yellow colored.It was just water,color and some essence.Half Anna a piece.
Last time,it cost me 800 rupees when I took some relatives to Baskin Robbins.I don't know how it can be justified. Life is cheap,living is expensive !

PURN!MA said...

tell me abt the price of Ice creams nowadays! I wasn't (am still not) too fond of ice creams.. so I do not have many ice cream eating memories. hey, the snap is too good!

The Panorama said...

I remember the ice cream wallahs too! My favourite was also orange!! Ah the simple joys of eating an ice cream on a hot afternoon...playing ludo or carrom all afternoon!!
Your post made me so nostalgic...

Sonu said...

Ice cream memories...a yummy post..u reminded me my childhood summer vacations with my cousins.. and the pic s also good..my all time favorite is vanilla,second choice of-course chocolate...
Keep writing...
:)

Scribbler said...

tell me about the good old summer holidays ! Sigh !!

Ironically,the word 'better' is not properly defined and just an excuse to wipe out the 'old' !!

But as they say-Old is Gold !

I also feel pity for children growing up in todays age...they would never get to see/feel the fun that we used to have...whereas we've experienced the old times and traditions and checking out the new age too...makes easy for us to compare and know what's good..or better ;)

Kavi said...

Took me back into childhood and the way i used to scream too.

Odd...or not very odd... to think that the gutter water fear striking mechanism was shared between mothers of the east and the south !!

:)

rama said...

Talk about those good old days, when ice creams were a luxury, when we could get Fanta and Coke in attractive glass bottles for 50 paisa and that too absolutely chilled, not like the ones available only in plastic bottles, and that too not always chilled to your satisfaction. I have stopped drinking all these drinks because I somehow don't get the taste I got in them in those days.
Those tasty samosas that came for 25 paisa, Oh God! nothing to beat the good old days.
Everything is just the same yet the taste and fun is not the same. Nice cute pictures. Thanks for bringing back those days alive through your blog.

Anu said...

going through a bout of nostalgia, are you??? well, i am too, but not about ice creams.. i was never too fond of them... still am not.. but i have been planning for my son;s hols and was remembering how easy our hols used to be, and how much fun! and of course, we spent less than a fraction of what we spend now!

A New Beginning said...

Awww thats a very cute post Arpana...would indulge in one today now that youve reminded me :))))

Ritu said...

Reminds me of orange bars that left your mouth looking yellow orange and we would compare the color on our tongues later

The Holy Lama said...

Ah! those days. A suitor who earned Rs. 500 a month was a prince then:D

Girish said...

I was a child of the 90's and I too had similar experiences!!
Kwality all the way!
I miss those days!
As Antony said - Life's cheap, living is expensive!

RGB said...

Wasn't too fond of ice-creams when I was little. But your post brought back memories of our wonderful yesteryears. It was cotton-candy and soan-papdi that I waited for eagerly, when the vendor pushed his cart in our neighbourhood ringing the bell, every single day at 4-ish. And I also remember the pink coconut burfee I used to buy from my school canteen for 25 paise (slurp, slurp!).

My mom on the other hand is crazy about icecreams even now. Everytime we go out for dinner and ask her what she'd like for dessert, pop comes her reply "ice cream" with the twinkle in her eyes!

Nona said...

I think I will go for an ice cream today! :) One of the memories associated with child ice cream encounters is of a frustrating nature. Elders used to hand down the same kind (cup or scoop) to me and my cousin. She works on it for an eternity and I end up watching it after finishing mine!

kavita said...

We still get to see locally made ice-cream carts here and i tell my kids the same thing --isme gutter ka paani hai !
I remember 'Gaylord' ice cream(haaaaa) and 'buria ke baal'(cotton candy).

We still play Ludo n saanp seedi(snake n ladders)---Aparna yaad aa gaya mujhko guzra zamana,khusboo bheene bheene zayka suhana !

Aparna said...

@ Dr.Anthony, your last line is a killer!

@ Purnima,the snap is of my kids, you might have guessed!

@Saroj, those were the days...

@ Sonu, thank you!

@ Scribbler, when i tell my kids we had a lot more fun, they do not believe me, they say "You guys did not have internet!"

@ Kavi, mothers are mothers, east or south.

@ Rama, I remember those bottles, we also had some local lemonade bottles which had a marble for a cap. One had to push the marble down to open the cap and it would make a 'pop' sound. It was delicious.

@ Anu, our holidays were never planned, our parents just used to visit their parents and we had no say in the matter. But boy, did we love it!

@ A New Beginning, thank you so much.

@ Ritu, yes, exactly. And it used to be so much fun!!!

@ Holy Lama, Rs 500 was a whopping sum!Who had that kind of money?

@ Girish, Kwality was great.

@ RGB, pink coconut barfee? That sounds lethal :)

@ Nona, no sympathies for you, I used to do the same to my brother!

@ Kavita, do you think they really use 'gutter ka paani?"

s2010 said...

YOu are an awesome story teller.Everything you pen down takes me back to my child hood days.How we share the same incidents like chasing tiktiki from the wall to saving every penny for that orang ice cream form the afternoon 'Qwality icecream wallah(and not Quality with an "U")and universally believing that all ice cream other than Qwality was made form Nordomar jol.There are many innumerable incidents of child hood if we get an opportunity to share would definitely match up.Seem like we all had the same simple world back then.
Keep writing more often.
Iam a huge fan.
sarmistha

vicious said...

waaaooo...u made me feel sooo nostalgic ...:-)

vicious said...

waaaooo...u made me feel sooo nostalgic ...:-)

Rachna said...

I loved Kwality too. But, I love the Baskin Robbins flavors these days. Amul still is my favorite for its great taste. And, I do avoid the roadside stuff.

Heavenly Muse said...

very sweet post
i remember in childhood(though i m not too old )
almost 20 years back...when i was 5 years old.i used to but a pastry for 1 rupees from a small bakery at the corner of our street.my mother would always reprimand me for eating unhygienic stuff.by i never fell ill after eating that 2 days old pastry.But ,this is the gift of my so-called sophisticated life style that i cant even bear eating even have any kind of bakery stuff for more then two bites.:-).too much formalities take away all the fun of life.....

ani_aset said...

i still remember chewing lots of bubble gums and collecting runs to win a bat :( thanks for reminding all that :P

Akshay said...

I am a child of the 1990s and I still remember how I used to specifically wait for December since my Mashima used to get me those chocolates from Nigeria at throwaway prices whereas now it costs a killings in malls here.

The innocent memories I had was if a McDonald's opened up in a neighbourhood (or even eight kilometers), I was a happy child and a treat at Pizza Hut was a special treat. Yes, this post did make me smile :).

Sandhya said...

Interesting post, Aparna! You made everyone to go back to their own childhood memories!

We used to have 10p. Rita ice cream, which was milk coloured with creamy taste. I still remember the taste.

Are they your daughters? They look cute!

Destiny's child... said...

Absolutely nothing like ice cream during summer vacations! :)

inmylineofsight.com said...

the first paragraph felt like something u see only in stories..really pleasant memories; so good to be true these days
i think the "icecream memories" from our childhood is common for every one, its kinda sad that that the coming generations wont hav such memories to fondle

Onkar said...

Beautifully written. You have summed up the experience of an entire generation.