Sunday, May 11, 2008

THE ICE-CANDY MAN


His would be a much-awaited arrival. All through the HOT, sweltering-sweaty summer afternoons we would doze/loll/dully-play, with tongues-almost-hanging-out-like-puppies and ears-cocked-for-THE-SOUND-(also-like-puppies).

And sure enough, when the sun was fading into a gentler-orange, the ice-candy man would trundle his small push-cart noisily round the bend of the road, crying in his peculiar high-pitched-hoarse voice, “AIIIIICE-KEREEEEM…EI…AIICE-KEREEEM”.

Wheedling money (a very small amount by today’s inflated standards) from maa (mother) or dida (grandma) or whoever else was present and awake, we would run down the stairs and out of the garden-gate.

Crowding around the ice-candy man would be a group of our friends from the neighbouring houses, all jumping and clamouring to get their choice of ice-lolly (which we euphemistically called ice-cream) FIRST. Nobody paid any heed to the fading, temptingly-if-improbably-coloured picture-list-of-products atop the van (many of which, like milk-nut-creams, or vanilla-cones were perpetually out-of-stock). We all knew what was ‘available’ and we all had our ‘firm favourites’. Admonishing us to calm down, the vendor would dig into his magic-chest and bring out the lollies (handed over only after payment…maybe somebody had run away with an unpaid ice-candy once upon a time).

Tearing off the thin-sticky paper cover with eager-fingers, we would cautiously lick the first sharp-cold-saccharine-tang, then slurp/suck/crunch, the insides of our mouth benumbed and be-dyed, till we reached the woody blandness of the pale, faintly-coloured stick. And, if in the process, a bit of ice fell off the stick onto the ground and melted into slippery-nothingness before we could pick it up and put it back in its rightful place (in our mouth), we felt SO, SO NEAR-TEARS-DISAPPOINTED.

My favourite was the orange candy, which would turn ice-white after a few moments of vigorous sucking and shade my tongue a virulent fierce-flame (completely unhygienic, hazardous-to-health, low-quality food colour, I’m sure, but in those naive-1970s, nobody seemed to care or fear).

Sometimes, for a change of shade, I’d colour my tongue garish-green with a ‘mango-lolly. I tried the yucky-yellow pineapple, too, but the jaundice-shade did not please my tongue (or eye). My brother liked the so-called-chocolate-candy (actually ice-dipped-in-dark-brown-dye). And all this RAINBOW-BONANZA for 25 paise only (coins of this denomination are near-obsolete today). When the price was hiked to 40/50 paise for a stick, all of us howled our protest. But continued to long-for and lick-to-the-last-drop-on-the-stick anyway.

Many of these ice-candy sellers would copy the looping-scrawly logo of Kwality, the biggest ice-cream manufacturer at that time, declaring their wares Kuality or, correctly-by-mistake, Quality. The real Kwality’s vanilla/strawberry/two-in-one/butterscotch/chocolate ice-creams would come in paper-cups stocked in big shops. They were an expensive exquisite luxury we got to savour when we went to our pishi’s (aunt) house in Calcutta.

But for our daily-slaking-of-thirst, our everyday-antidote-to-parched-tongues-and-throats, we just loved the crunchy-cold, dubiously-coloured cheap-paise-purchases from the ice-candy-man.

DID YOU HAVE AN ICE-ADDICTION, TOO?

10 comments:

SUKKU said...

Well we had our version of ice candy when I was a kid, it is made with ice shavings and the chinese guy, who was the vendor, he pours in the syrup, sweet corn, red beans and whole lotta stuff and make it into a ball and places it in a bowl. This is really nice to have in the afternoon, when it is hot.

sukku

Aleta said...

You bring back such wonderful memories! When I was a little girl, we lived on Green Acres Road. It was a lively street of children in each home. When the Ice Cream truck would drive by, all he had to do was ring the bells on his truck and we came running (like Pavlov's dogs)

Now, when I hear the sound of the Ice Cream truck, yes, I admit, part of me wants to run like a child to get something. But now, I enjoy the snowballs (syrup over crushed ice). It's a favorite in the South with our seasons of "summer" and "summer light."

Keshi said...

OMG u reminded me of my Ice-cream addiction days! When I was abt 5-6yrs old..there used to be an Ice-cream Van that came down our street...whenever I hear it's bell and see it's bright lights cruisin past our house, I used to run behind it with some money in my hands LOL!

Keshi.

Vartika said...

yes, i did and had this person deliver it to our place every day, every summer for years!

Paul Bernard said...

I feel like you regress me whenever I read this blog. It's very clever.
There was a very cheap ice-cream that you could get from the ice-cream van called a Mini-milk (I think they still make them). It was probably 20p, and it's what you had cos you were too young for a bigger one.
Then one day you have a bigger one, in a cone, dripping with raspberry. And, oh look, there's a flake in it! But then, no, you can't go back to Mini-milk. But when the van came a-calling, in the evening, after tea, all mum would let us have was a Mini-milk. And it really was a conundrum whether or not to accept her lesser offer...

Paul Bernard said...

Also, in answer to your question over the weekend:

'Does autobiography creep into your fiction?'
Yes, it certainly does - but only in that it will give me the starting point, or a punchline or an action point. Maybe it just gives me a detail.
I've sometimes started trying to encapsulate reality and gotten bored and made the rest up.
It's funny when people think the 'I' in the story is actually me.

As for the songs from old Hindi movies, I enjoy them too. Such films used to appear often on UK schedules, but it was only the pretty look of everything and everyone, plus the music that grabbed me.
Can you recommend any excellent pieces of such music?

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi everybody,

Thanks for all those mouth-watering memories of ice-creams down the years.

Paul, as for your interest in Hindi music, I'll try to get some links for you to listen and enjoy.

Jaquanda Rae said...

I'm late with my comment. lol.
I lived on this farm and an ice cream man would come on a bike (motorcycle) on Sundays. I'd buy tovaks I think...not quite sure if that's the name or if it's kimo...a sort of fudge. Sometimes I'd share an ice cream cake with my big sisters. Nice days.

Thanks for comments on Play. It came easily...unlike the one I wrote today. Not even sure if I'll post it.

tina said...

as a child i preferred the ice creams that came in cups, tubs and gallon cans to the rainbow ices on sticks; the latter lacked the luscious creaminess of a mouthful of double dutch, or cookies and cream. i wasn't partial to any flavor in particular, though i always loved cheese, mango and ube. i was, however, forbidden from eating the "dirty ice cream" being sold on the streets in push-carts; this kind of ice cream was made from coconut milk, which upset my stomach until i was around 10. whenever my family would buy ice cream on the street i would just watch them in dutiful resignation, while my mother droned the usual explanation about my stomach's pickiness. nowadays dirty ice cream is all i can afford...it's a cheap treat on a hot day. :)

Piscean Angel said...

Oh really ... u bring back such wonderful memories. I hv memories of two ice-candy men ... one who use to come a-calling near home & the other one parked outside school. And my faves were the Kwality fudge & the ornage stick. When I was in school in Std 5 or 6, these ice-lollies came for Rs. 2 & now it's priced at Rs. 5, it seems (a friend who bought it for her son, recently told me). Not too much inflation really ... isn't it ?