City Food – Rooh Afza Drink Stall, Old Delhi
Summer’s utmost pleasure.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Where else to have a tasty glass of scarlet-hued sherbet than in the bazaar lanes of Old Delhi?
Make a point this summer to turn up at a modest establishment near Gali Dakotan street where Muhammed Fazil serves the Rooh Afza drink—said to contain no less than 22 ingredients.
The props at his stall are few: just a table, stacks of plastic glasses, and a large metal vessel full of sherbet. “I prepare the drink in the morning,” says the man, too embarrassed to boast about his own self. Himself a wintertime bus conductor, he excuses himself in summer months to set up his temporary sherbet enterprise. His sherbet is topped with floating ice chunks to keep it cold, but of course the deep flavour is created by the huge range of ingredients. From spinach and watermelon to distillate of damask rose.
Mr Fazil points out that this refreshing beverage, invented “before the batwara (partition),” has its (corporate) headquarters just a few minutes’ walk from his stall. The gentleman’s ice-cold vessel containing the sherbet offers instant respite from the heat of a Delhi day.
Now, a teenager turns up. Mr Fazil ladles out the drink into a plastic cup —and the boy downs it all in one gulp. He then dashes off on the instant energy surge, as though a dyke has suddenly been opened, leaving the vendor to lazily stir his icy concoction awaiting the next thirsty customer.
For this sherbet by any other name would taste as sweet