City Food – Mr Hameed’s Roller Ice Cream, Rani Garden
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s not a common sight — well, the ice creams are but not the ice cream roller. On this hot muggy night, two men are stationed with their cart in a corner of Rani Garden lane, silently watching the pedestrians go by in the crowded street. One passerby stops to ask them what is the thing they are selling. They say fruit ice cream. The man looks on suspiciously and goes away without buying anything.
Mr Hameed and his quieter cousin, who is shy of sharing his name, explain that they jointly operate the machine. The cart has plastic baskets filled with melons, papayas, apples and grapes (these just got over), and lots and lots of bananas—evidence enough that the fruit ice cream they serve might truly be fresh, as claimed. On receiving an order, the two get to work, without speaking any word, and with no expressions on their unmasked faces.
The machine resembles the one employed by sugarcane juice vendors, except that here the metal roller is not used to crush the fruit per se; instead, the finished dessert freezes over its surface. The long cylindrical roller is covered with milk-coated crushed ice. Mr Hameed pours fruit pulp over it from a small vessel. “We made the pulp an hour ago,” he says. With the other hand, he starts to spin the roller’s handle, much like a Gandhian does the charkha. The fruit pulp instantly freezes on the rotating ice, which soon turns pinkish white. Meanwhile, the cousin is holding a plate of chopped fruits under the roller. The pieces cling to the pulpy sticky ice. Moments later, Mr Hameed picks a knife and deftly scrapes a layer of ice cream from the roller. He carefully lays out the pieces on a plate, sprinkles a dash of rose syrup onto it, and serves it to the customer.
The first bite sends a mild shudder through the body, not because the ice cream is so cold, but because it tastes too fresh. A feeling of sweet coldness courses through the body.
The duo say that they shall stay in the city until the summmer, after which they will return to their village in Etawah, UP, to tend to their small agricultural land. The machine will be left behind with an acquaintance. They shall return next summer.