The summer of 1957. I was eight.
Saturday evening at dusk. It was on one of Pune's then main thoroughfares. A very ordinary looking three storey structure, with a name written with a grand flourish across a background of cement flowers, cracking at the edges.
We were in a special area on the first floor, with nicer tables and chairs, than say the ground floor, where flinging a towel on your shoulder, and shouting out the order in convoluted complex English, was the style of the day. We had folks who sedately moved around asking what your order was, kind of whispered it to the next important functionary, and the four of us sat at one of the hexagonal tables, that seemed to have an imposing huge stone as a table top, terribly at variance with the folding metal chairs.
The two of us were so excited. In those days, such trips were rare. Going out, per se, was not the done thing. But this was special. A celebration. I forget the reason. It was enough that we were there.
We watched the folks at the other tables. Not too many mothers there. Every now and then we would watch waiters coming with full trays, hoping they would stop at our table. The elderly waiter would smile at us, seeing our desperation.
Finally, the waiting ended. It had arrived. My first crush . Alphonso Hapoos Mango pieces crushingly slathered in hand churned mango ice cream, presented in a boat shaped false silver plate, with two spoons; one flat and the other , normal.
There was a new light in my eyes. The waiting was all worth it. I could keep on looking at it, but the latitude and longitude of Pune ensured, that the crush would lose its solidity, if I followed that path.
I followed his eyes, now focused on the crush in front of him. Did he get more ice cream than I did ? Were his mango pieces larger ? Was I jealous ? Was he jealous ?
We started picking at the ice cream, enjoying the flavour as it tingled the tongue and built up a sensation of wanting more. There was a technique we followed , on such occasions, which were not frequent at all. The idea was to keep eating small amounts, so that after an unbearably long time, the other person's ice cream got over, and you still had a half plate of the crush in front of you.
The trouble was he had the same idea. And so you have the story of my first crush, redolent of Alphonso mango fruit, and completely blanketed by mango ice cream so to speak, now trying to lie at the side of the fruit pieces, in puddles, probably disgusted at the stubborn behaviour of the imbibers.
My father looked at his watch. he had promised to bring us home by 7 pm. It was getting late, and my brother and I, out on this special treat with him, were making things difficult trying to win, as to who came last.
"OK. You both have 5 minutes. I want everything lapped up, no wasting stuff. If you can't eat it, then slurp it or drink it. We need to leave......"... the referee had spoken.
This was the best part, and we dug in, ecstatically drizzling the melted ice cream over the orange pieces, and literally wolfing it down, and you could see the extra large servings sliding down our throats as the food pipe , in peristalsis, appeared to shiver delightedly from the cold, as it directed the now mushy crush down into the innards, amidst sensations, that cannot be described adequately in words. A cooling feeling at the bottom of the stomach, and before it got over, there would be another mouthful , the mango and the ice cream once again delighting all the senses. We'd sniff the cold spoonful before we ate it, and revel in the aroma of hapoos, cream and saffron.
There would be a sound of a chair scraping, and we knew we were running late. The last semi solid, nectarish mash of hapoos and cream would be drunk straight from the boat shaped plate, paying scant attention to the milk moustache that made its appearance.
My father would offer his handkerchief. We would use it only after licking up the moustache stuff first.
We would emerge, as the street lights came on. Not too much traffic on the road, and crossing was easy.
I have been around . Crossed the world . I have seen the advent of cones and sundaes, and ice cream available in packs in shops. I have seen the 32 flavours. I have seen what is called a softie. I have also see ice creams where the shape of the glass is more important than what is inside, as ice cream. I've seen it thrown into glasses of Coca Cola, and sold at ridiculous prices, and called ridiculous names.
But. What remains, etched , for eternity, in my heart, is the memory of this first crush.
Melting moments , of the icy Alphonso type....