City Landmark – Ice Stall, Gurgaon
A journey to Iceland.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Iceland is far towards the polar north of the globe, and the flight tickets aren’t cheap to its capital, Reykjavik. But then there’s another land of ice, and that is Rafiq Ali’s Barf Depot.
It’s a roadside stall in Gurgaon’s Sector 14. Here you find ice for sale. “One silli for 400 rupees,” says stall owner Muhammed Sameer. The young man explains that a single silli, or a slab of ice, weighs about 40 kg.
The ice establishment is older than most high-rises in this Futuristic City. It was set up by Mr Sameer’s parents some 40 years ago.
This cold afternoon the counter is looking bare with just a small block of ice. What happened? Did the ice melt away?
Mr Sameer chuckles. Shaking his head, he says, “Most of it is already sold.” Pointing to another similar stall across the street, he says it belongs to his uncle who has briefly gone out for some work. That rival stall clearly hasn’t done good business today— it’s full of ice slabs. The relationship status of these two stalls, the boy tactfully hints, has an “India-Pakistan” dynamic. The city doesn’t have any other such ice shops, he further adds, a claim that was confirmed by a couple of shopkeepers in nearby Sadar Bazar.
Mr Sameer says that the ice comes from a factory his family owns in Basai, a nearby village. “We make the ice from RO (reverse osmosis) water,” he says, referring to purified water. These days most households get their ice as ice cubes from their own freezers. Mr Sameer’s customers tend to be ice-cream cart vendors or fish sellers. A part of the sales also rely on bulk orders from banquets and wedding parties. “Sometimes people also need ice to preserve a dead body for a day or two… that’s also a fact of life.”
Even though this is a day glowing with brilliant sunshine, the lad doesn’t fear his ice melting into water. “Cover the barf with cloth, and it stays barf for a long time.”
Meanwhile he is patiently waiting for the winter to give way to summer when “the demand increases from 11 sillis daily to 100 sillis.”
You ought to stop by this stall because… well, just where else can you see ice being sold on the roadside as casually as aloopyaaz. The Barf Depot opens daily from 6 am to 10 pm in winter, and 6 am to midnight in summer.
Postcard from Reykjavik