City Food - Game wali Kulfi, Old Delhi

City Food – Game wali Kulfi, Old Delhi

City Food - Game wali Kulfi, Old Delhi

Taste of heritage childhood.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It’s gone. That’s how old people with clear memories of their childhood summers speak of it. But here is that same thrilling ice-cold treat, just around the corner, mobbed by those same old people’s grand-babies. The most fairy-tale part of Walled City summer, it’s the game wali kulfi.

This is a simple kulfi cart but fitted with a roulette wheel. Drop a coin into the spinning thing to win as many kulfis as the number on which it comes to rest. If it is the pinball game instead, pray the kancha (small glass ball) lands into the highest value square.

While the game wali kulfi survives in Purani Dilli (perhaps only in Purani Dilli), it does so barely. The trick is not to search hard for it; you’ll then never find it. Like a precious rare treasure, it surfaces when least expected.

One summer noon, years ago, The Delhi Walla discovered the game cart in a Bulbuli Khana gali, steps away from empress Razia Sultan’s grave. The mohalla‘s child-citizens were hitting the kancha by pulling a spring attached to a wooden block. The kancha would shoot up, hit the boundary wall and roll down into an array of pins where it might fall into one of the spaces marked with numbers. A grownup too played a hand. His kancha reached close to a square, numbered four, but then it stopped. The kulfi man pushed it inside and produced four kulfis from his wooden box. The milk-dipped trophies were maha-sugary.

Another year, a cart was spotted by Turkman Gate. It had a chipped board with pins nailed along the sides, with a small plasic ball. The spaces between the pins were marked with numbers. One rare game cart vendor Ismail was spotted last year in Gali Sooinwalla. A boy in knickers picked up the plastic ball and hit the nail board. The ball ended up in number five. The boy got five kulfis; his mouth stayed open in shock.

And last week, game wali kulfi cart made its 2023 summer debut. Vendor Nizam was outside Phatak Teliyan gateway. He has been operating the mobile summertime stall for 20 years. “The rest of the year I’m a farmer, taking care of my eight beegha zameen in Bihar.” Right now, his wife, Ajmeri, is coordinating with hired labourers to harvest channa and masoor crops, he says.

Meanwhile, little gentlemen and gentleladies of the vicinity are around the cart, gambling. See photo.