City Hangout – Winter Midnight Ice-Creams, India Gate
A midwinter night’s dream.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Delhi’s winter is extreme but fleeting. It will no longer do to postpone one of the most memorable ways to cherish the season. Bitter chill is needed for the perfect experience and that kind of cold doesn’t last long in our city.
So head to India Gate tonight.
Try to reach not before 12, and go straight for a choco bar or ice cream cone served by scores of vendors who’ve set themselves up at the traffic light near the monument: battling the hostile winter to eke out a meager living.
“What cold, no cold!” shouts vendor Ram Kumar who’s just sold a cassata. He’s warmly bundled in a thick sweater as well as a muffler and blanket, but no gloves. “They’d only get wet while handing out ice cream.”
More than a dozen carts are corralled at India Gate, each appearing cocooned in its own world. They’ve also managed to spread out along that long radial running around the monument, set up to honor the memory of World War I soldiers.
Seller Shankar has wisely parked his scooter-cart beside a bus stand, making it easier for motorists to briefly stop and buy something frigid. He himself is warming his hand over a small fire that he rustled out of leaves and twigs a few minutes ago.
“Good business gives me garmi (heat),” he jokes, explaining, “People in cars keep stopping by.”
Soon enough, another car halts. “Bhayya, do choconut dena,” says a female passenger. The transaction is swift, and the vehicle rolls away, leaving Shankar to prepare for his next sale. He’ll be at it until around 2 am when most sellers finally disperse.
Meanwhile at the aforementioned traffic light the crowd is buzzing around the ice cream carts like bees about a flower. Some of these late night picnickers are shivering because of the cold, others are bravely taking selfies, but they all are holding some nutty buddy or the other, beaming with the happy thrill of daring the seething sullen winter’s night.
The perfect Delhi winter ritual