If you are ever near India Gate on a weekend, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the denizens of Delhi had all been ordered to line up there for a head count. Truly, nearly all of Delhi descends on the lawns of the soldiers' memorial on any given weekend - impervious to the effects of the skyrocketing mercury. For India Gate, after all, is one of the few places in Delhi where a family can still have a nice evening out for less than Rs.100 - spending a few odd bucks on chanachur garam, 10 or 20 for balloons for the kids, and the bulk on ice-creams. I like their spirit, but I am not much of an ice-cream man myself. I like home-made ice-cream, but we get less and less of that these days. When I was young, there used to be a Sardarji in INA market who used to manually churn out ice-cream in a wooden pail. Then he used to place a scoop in a cocktail glass, put a cherry on top of it and a thin wafer biscuit at the side, and serve it to us.
Sorry, nostalgia is like a walking stick for the middle-aged. Childhood, for us, was all about home-made ice-cream and kulfis frozen in a small earthen-ware pot. And once I get on to the subject, I get particularly nostalgic about a hot-day's dessert that I am passionate about - the rabri falooda. You get this in most sweet shops, but the best rabri falooda is sold in a shop in Sadar Bazar and one near Khari Baoli. Gyani's rabri falooda shop is on Church Mission Road - the one that leads from Khari Baoli to the Old Delhi Railway Station. If you get lost, you can ask any shopkeeper in Chandni Chowk, and you will be directed to Gyani's place. You will know you are there when you see a crowd frantically waving tokens in front of a small shop. I was there last week. I bought a coupon for a glass of rabri falooda (Rs.25) and then went berserk like the rest of the crowd, yelling "Ek glass dena" and waving my token to the two men manning the counter. They would take a glass filled with thick rabri (full of dry fruits such as pistas and almonds), layer it with a thick line of crushed ice and then top it with a fistful of falooda and some scented water. The mix would be given one passionate shake and a spoon would be added to the glass, which would then be handed over to the one with the loudest voice or the most frenetic token shaker.
Finally, my deep baritone was heard and a glass was thrust into my hands. The rabri was thick, rich and creamy, and the falooda had been cooked to perfection. It is a heavenly dessert, and one glass is so filling that you can easily forego your lunch after that.
But I am a growing boy - though, sadly, growing in all the wrong areas. So I had my rabri falooda and meandered around for some khasta kachori. And then, before I started for home, I rounded up my three-course lunch with the last item on the menu - a pink Digene tablet.