Srinagar: As the dusk sets in, Srinagar portrays a ghostly look in Ramadan. The markets close down and traffic thins out of roads. But Bohri Kadal in the heart of downtown springs to life. A heavy rush of visitors swarm the place to taste mouth-watering delicacy Kulfi, a traditional frozen dessert specially prepared after day-long effort.
Eight kulfiwallas set their makeshift kiosks on the edge of Bohri Kadal chowk. Sitting behind huge pots filled with cone-shaped plastic moulds and ice, these kulfiwallas serve cold and yummy kulfi to customers to beat the summer heat.
As the call for iftar comes from a local mosque, the clatter of bowls and spoons sets in as enthusiasts rush to nibble on frozen delights after a daylong fasting. Within no time, the rush steadily progresses as people cover 20-30 kilometers drive to taste this delicacy. Some sit on the chairs laid out on sidewalk while families prefer to order from their vehicles. The rush rarely thins out.
Asking these kulfiwallas to have your attention at this rush-hour is as good as talking to a stone. “We can talk tomorrow about it,” retorts one of the kulfiwalla.
In the daytime as one approaches their houses in a narrow alley at Bohri Kadal, these kulfiwallas are busy in preparing sweetened milk and filling cones for the evening. “It’s a hectic process. We start our day around dawn and boil milk in deep pans. The sweetened milk is then filtered into cones and kept in ice after mixing all ingredients,” says Meraj-ud-Din, who ekes out his living from the trade for last 15 years.
Meraj isn’t alone in his family to sell kulfi. He says this trade has turned as a “family business” for them. “We got into this trade by chance. We used to glance silently at the legendary kulfiwalla Ama Badoo (Ghulam Ahmad Badoo), and that’s how we learnt it. Honestly, our product is no match to that great God-gifted kulfiwalla. May Allah rest his soul in peace, I can tell you we only learnt a bit of the trade, not entirely,” Meraj told Kashmir Reader while filling the cones in the corner of his small courtyard at his home.
On an average, the ice-cream vendors sell around 4,000 kulfis in the evening from 8 pm till 11 pm. The demand can be gauged from the fact that on weekends or holidays, the customers leave dejected as the eight kulfiwallas run out of stock. The tinge of inflation, however, has not spared this delicious dessert as the prices have doubled in the recent years. Currently a single cone is prized at Rs 30. Some years ago, it would cost Rs 15.
Interestingly, Bohri Kadal hogged headlines when Kashmir’s first batch of militants brandished AK-47 rifles in 1989 for the first time. And this place is also few meters from historical Jamia Masjid.
“Those were hard days. We used to run our business from 11 am to 4 pm. There was no rush as the place was surrounded by CRPF bunkers. So people preferred to stay away,” recalls Meraj.
Yet, Bohri Kadal kulfi remains perennial favourite of Kashmiris.