Buy Kulfi By The Kilo At Rajesh Ice Cream

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BUY KULFI BY THE KILO AT RAJESH ICE CREAM

Amidst the shops selling shoes, fabric, and imitation jewellery in Goyal Shopping Centre is Rajesh Ice Cream, a 35-year-old shop famous for its kulfi. You can buy kulfi by the dozen and by the flavour, or a kilo of the “mix”: an amalgamation of malai, kesar, pista, raspberry, kaju-draksh, mango, and anjeer kulfi.

Rajesh Ice Cream, Goyal Shopping Centre, Opposite Borivali Railway Station, Lokmanya Tilak Road, Sundar Nagar, Borivali (w), Mumbai 400 092; Phone: 022 2880 6432 / 2889 3462

READ MAULIKA K. HEGDE'S STORY

Before the high rises, the golden pagoda, and Mumbai’s first Ikea store, Borivali was just another western suburb. Tourists came to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Gorai Beach, Esselworld, and Water Kingdom. Locals preferred to throng the nondescript Goyal Shopping Arcade. Goyal, as it is popularly known, enjoys special status on account of its proximity to Borivali railway station. A repository of prêt-à-porter, shoes, imitation jewellery, fabric, and lingerie, it houses a hospital and several eating joints as well. And it is also home to the 35-year-old Rajesh Ice Cream.

My father first took me to Rajesh Ice Cream many summers ago. He bought me a chocolate cone while he chose a generic kulfi. This was in the pre-set top box era when the store had advertisements running on Borivali’s local cable channels featuring video footage of overeager customers clambering over the store front for a kulfi candy or slice. For years, shopping trips to Borivali West that involved negotiating the maze in Goyal promised a reward: a kulfi or two from Rajesh Ice Cream. The humble kulfi is an inheritance from the Mughal Empire; rich, creamy, and flavourful, it is an antidote to Mumbai’s sultry tropical climate. Typically made by condensing sweetened buffalo milk, the humble kulfi and its flavoured variants are also a popular feature at Indian weddings.

While the store sells eponymous chocobars (the ice-cream sticks have “Rajesh” monogrammed in cursive), ice-cream cones, and family packs, Rajeshji, the owner, rues the greater demand for mass produced ice cream manufactured by the likes of Unilever and Amul. Still, loyal customers throng to this hole in the wall to buy kulfis by the dozen and by the flavour – malai, kesar, pista, kaju-draksh, raspberry, anjeer, mango, chickoo, roasted badam, sitaphal, and gulkand. There are no sundaes, but you can buy a falooda by the glass. The biggest seller is the malai kulfi, both in candy and slice form. However, it is the roasted badam kulfi that is the real deal and absolute value for money. The nutty richness of the roasted almonds elevate the malai kulfi to something extraordinary.

As I pester Rajeshji for more details, customers are buying kilos of the “mix”: typically an amalgamation of malai, kesar, pista, raspberry, kaju-draksh, mango, and anjeer kulfi. With deft moves and absolute accuracy, Rajeshji cuts pieces from each of these kulfi rolls and places them on butter paper where the “mix” is weighed and then chopped into smaller, bite size pieces. As he takes orders, weighs slices of kulfi and tenders change, he tells me how he was born and bred in Mathura and used to work as an agriculturist. Like most, he came to Mumbai on a mere whim, lured by the wild promise of the city of dreams. Today, his is a family business: he runs the shop in Borivali West and his brother runs a store (with the same name) close to Malad railway station. Every evening, a vehicle laden with kulfi rolls is dispatched from the manufacturing unit in Malad to Borivali.

Over the years, Rajesh Ice Cream has survived ice-cream parlours serving extravagant flavours, gelaterias, and a major fire.

Rajeshji smiles but is dismissive of my suggestion to introduce milkshakes. His hands are full with the kulfi, ice-cream and falooda business and he is unperturbed by the competition next door – a former paan parlour now selling kulfi, ice cream, falooda, mineral water, and milkshakes. With a sense of pride and confidence, Rajeshji assures me that, when it comes to taste, people prefer his store.

The interiors of the shop remain bare basic: permissions from the municipal authorities hang framed below a tube light display of the store’s name. There is a sink in the corner, a pile of ceramic plates, a bunch of spoons and a weighing scale. The original hand-painted sign board has now made way for acrylic red and yellow signage. Over the years, Rajesh Ice Cream has survived ice-cream parlours serving extravagant flavours, gelaterias, and a major fire. The fire left Rajeshji without a store to operate from for about six-seven months. The fridges in the store had to be sent back to the manufacturing unit. But with science and jugaad, Rajesh Ice Cream continued to sell kulfis and ice-cream with a portable container packed with ice, placed on the pavement outside the store.

At Rajesh Ice Cream, there are no soft pitched voices murmuring flavour suggestions. No cartons of flavours in a glass display, gloved hands, fancy café chairs, disposable cups, or time to stand and stare. To borrow an Indian aphorism, the mantra here is – Jo dikhta hai, bikhta hai (“what you see is what you get”).