The sweetness when the first hint of kulfi hits your mouth and its coolness relieves your body of the overbearing summer heat is an unmatched feeling that will remain imprinted on my mind forever. Isn’t it funny, the things we can’t remember and those we will never forget?
Even now, years later, whenever I hear the faint melody of a kulfi man, the memories rush back and the urge to run to him hits me once again.
As you grow older, you realize that the memories which truly hold meaning are not necessarily those full of your greatest practical accomplishments in life, a valuable moment is one that gave you even just a flicker of real unbridled happiness.
I don’t remember what my finest grades in class were or which was my shiniest trophy but what I do hold is the joy I felt when reading my first book, the sound of my puppy’s first woof, and the unmistakable song of a Kulfi wala. Our ability to reminisce is so bittersweet, to relieve and enjoy memories of what we once had only to know it is gone forever, I still remember those delightful summer days as if it was only this afternoon.
Just as the sun began to trickle down from its peak at midday, with crows cawing at every corner and eagles circling the skies, the clear song of our neighborhood Kulfi wala could be heard loudly through every street. Ears perking up at the sound, I would run to my mother and pull at the edge of her kameez and each time a silent smile would spread over her lips as she handed me a crisp 10 rupee note, accustomed to our weekly ritual. Grabbing it instantly, just in case she changed her mind although she never did, I would rush down the stairs at a speed that would even give Usain Bolt a run for his money. Years later as a wonderful discovery, I came to find out she enjoyed his music as much as we all did and would watch me hurtling towards the ice cream cart through our bedroom window, all the while humming his song.
A story mirrored in every household, all us children, forgetting who was a friend and who was a foe, would race towards the melodious tune that rang in our ears.
As we ran towards him like a pack of wolves, the gentle old man would grin and quickly move behind his ice-cream tricycle, as if to protect himself from the hoard of hungry children. Pushing each other, the children would jump up and down as he pulled out the most popular flavors of kulfi, while everyone clawed at his cart. I would wait as the crowd dispersed before going ahead and picking my kulfi because while all the other children were fully captivated by the many flashy variations, such as cardamon, pistachio, elaichi, and even mango, I was entranced by our traditional malai, or cream, flavor. Malai was always the group’s least favorite, maybe due to its simplicity, however for me, no other flavor could match its level of deliciousness and creamy texture. With all our kulfis in hand, we would rush to the nearby playground and gather around our typical spot, furiously licking at the kulfi that could not stand the summer heat for very long while the kulfi wala’s song grew fainter in the background as he wandered towards the next neighborhood to repeat his cycle.
For hours we would lay on the grass in the blazing summer sun afterward, with hands sticky from the kulfi that melted and drenched them and our mouths still sweet from hints of that delicious treat, with not a care in the world. Eventually, I moved abroad with my family and the tradition of kulfi was left in the past, drowning in a sea of my fondest memories. Good ol’ ice cream has a place in my heart too, but kulfi will always remain the ultimate champion.
Gathering together to enjoy kulfi is a tradition older than Pakistan itself, with its origins dating back to the Indian subcontinent in the 16th century and kulfi carts are not the only ones fulfilling the demand for this delicious product nowadays, you’ll come to see that new outlets specifically dedicated to kulfi have popped up on the corner of every other street there’s probably one on yours too. So, take your loved ones out today, whether it’s your significant other, parents, siblings, or children, and enjoy your youth once again with this mesmerizing treat.