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We Didn’t Know Gelato Or Cassata, Everything Was Just Ice Cream!

Millions around the world are feeling the effects of an unrelenting summer. Having been badly sunburned twice in the space of 4 weeks, I have minimized stepping outdoors. As the high temperatures continue, my thoughts travel decades backwards to the Indian summers of the early seventies. Everything was fun and simple, and as kids, “sunscreen”, “global warming”, and “heat advisory” were foreign concepts to us.

Summer was synonymous with the holidays

Schools were closed for at least a month or so for the summer. With some respite from studying, it felt like a vacation in paradise. It was like no work and all play, with moms attending to kids who were hungry all the time. Of course, the holiday homework was still on the cards.  

A visit to my grandparents’ home was always looked forward to. Pampering was in abundance, and I was glad that my mother was not in command for some time at least.

Children were kept engaged by parents with arts, crafts, and sports. I was pathetic in drawing, and my mother’s attempts to train and improve me proved to be a failure every year!

The craziest of shenanigans happened during the summer vacation, and parents talked about how impatient they were to see their naughty ones back in school again. That history still repeats itself in present times and will continue to do so even in the future.

As a child, I had just one complaint of being born in the summer. My birthday coincided with the holidays, and I used to be very upset that I missed out on the ritual of distributing candy to my classmates on my special day. That was a common practice in school. Looking back, it warms my heart now to think about how innocent my thoughts were.

Power outages invariably made their appearance!

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Load sheddings were common in the summer. Unlike kids these days, we did not have to worry about not having wi-fi to log on to the internet when there was no power. 

Losing electricity during the day definitely made it uncomfortable, but it was less of an issue at night. The family would sit outside on the porch or the courtyard to get some breeze. Under the star-studded sky, we enjoyed listening to stories that our elders narrated, and the family bonded over interesting conversations.

Juicy delights made their way home

Seasonal summer fruits were extremely delicious, and I had my personal favorites.

The mania for mangoes would be at its height. Raw or ripe, they were always relished. The yellow ones were cut and eaten; the green ones were grated and converted into spicy chutneys. The raw green mango drink popularly known as aam ka panna was a drink craved for on a hot summer day!

The luscious litchis, fleshy and white, were heavenly and refreshing! Then there were those plums we savored. Over-ripened ones made their way to the jars after being converted into jam or jelly.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Summers minus ice cream were simply incomplete. My first memory of ice cream was of the colored, frozen sugary treats sold outside the school premises. They were stored in a rectangular box. Extremely cheap, they were probably not even priced for more than 10 paisa per piece.

It was rumored that those treats were made out of unhygienic water, and most parents never allowed their kids to have those popsicles. It is really funny how our parents had access to those insider stories of how they were made. The credibility is questionable, but the facts were woven so beautifully that we fell for them and accepted them to be true.

When Kwality ice cream made its inroads to my town, there was so much excitement. The brand had a good reputation. The ice cream man drove his cart in the neighborhood, and his cry “Ice cream, Kwality ice cream” would rent the air. The milky ice cream was served in small paper cups with lids. There was the choco-bar too!

Denser and creamier than regular ice cream was our desi version: the kulfi that had existed since the Mughal era of the sixteenth century. That was equally appealing to the tastebuds.

We did not have God’s plenty, yet happiness overflowed!

Gizmos and gadgets were not our companions. Our choices, be it entertainment or gorging on junk food, were extremely limited. Even then, didn’t we make the best out of every summer?

I jokingly mentioned to my son the other day: “The fine distinctions between different types of ice cream did not exist for us. We did not know what gelato or cassata meant. Everything was just ice cream for us, but like you guys, we too were the cool kids who chillaxed in the summer!”


About the Author

Rashmi Bora Das

Rashmi Bora Das is a freelance writer settled in the suburbs of Atlanta. She has a master’s degree in English from India, and a second master’s in Public Administration from the University of read more...

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