Those of us who have been fortunate to have had a secure childhood often have fond recollections. One such in my list is that of the ice cream vendor.
The ice cream vendor of my growing up years often navigated through our locality pushing a little cart on two wheels. During the day, he made several visits at our street. The cart usually had a little bell. The kind we often see in temples. The lilt from the bell was a gentle reminder of the ice cream vendor’s presence in the area and children gleefully ran out from their homes with money in their hands. It was a disappointment to miss the call, only to see the vendors back at the far corner of the street, and I remember few occasions, yelling and waving at him to attract his attention.
Children often formed a little crowd around him while he seemed to conjure magic dishing out colorful mouthfuls from inside the cart. “entha?”(“How much?”) one would ask and he would reply “pavala” (25 Paise) or “yabai” (50 Paise). I do not think anyone argued over the price.
The ice cream came in two varieties. One of these, and also the popular of the two, consisted of a lump of sweetened, colored ice mounted on a stick. It took a shape anywhere from a cone to a cylindrical lump. Children liked this much better than the other variety that was packed in a thin transparent cover. This was cylindrical in shape and had just the same taste. I do not know why this carried lesser appeal. Perhaps the quantity of the former appeared to be more. (Strangely, both these varieties had no cream in them. They just had ice. But the name remained.)
I do not recollect what the inside of the cart exactly looked like. All that I remember is that it was dark inside and that it was provided with insulation to prevent the sweltering heat from melting the ice. It was brightly painted on the outside with pictures…anything to attract a young heart to the contents inside the cart.
It was only a little matter of time, for the vendor to complete his sales and the crowd dispersed in minutes. The ice had to be consumed quickly as there was a risk of it melting and many homes, then, did not have a refrigerator to store it.
Hygiene was not a concern to us children as much as it was to the elders in our households. This was a matter that was raised every time we asked for money to buy the ice. A small argument would ensue, but we usually prevailed. It was a delightful feeling to lap up the ice during the hottest time of the day.
Times have changed now, and so has the ice cream vendor and his cart. The push cart has long been gone and its place has been taken by a little manually driven trolley. The bell still remains and serves its purpose. The ice cream or ice if you will, of yester years has been replaced with “real” branded ice-cream.