Old City’s ‘Mat Kulfi’ Sells Hot To Cool Customers

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Photo Credit: Xuhaib Maqbool

Syed Muntaha

In this scorching heat of summer, the Bohri Kadal chowk in old city area of Srinagar often remains a busy spot. As one passes through the area, long queue of cars can be seen parking there. Opposite to these parked cars, there are around ten stalls selling ice cream.

These stalls are appearing as the major attraction for people across the valley. People come along with families often during evening hours to taste this unique and delicious ice cream. In local parlance, this ice cream is famously known as ‘Mat Kulfi’.

With the growing popularity of this local product, these odd ten stalls are feeling inadequate to cater the rush of customers.

Fifty year old Bashir Ahmad who also owns a stall at this spot says that they sell as many as 4500 ice creams daily. Can such more stalls be set up there?  “No,” says Bashir.

He says this ice cream (mat kulfi) was discovered by a local Ghulam Ahmad some 45 years ago. “He sat the first stall here and sold this kulfi for over 25 years alone till his death. Maintaining the quality and uniqueness in this product, Ahmad managed to bring fame to this product which gradually started increasing the flow of customers.” He recalls.

Though none among his family members was interested to continue his business, but some of his neighbours were already trained and fell in love with this prosperous business.

“The product was already grown famous in the city and the rush was huge. Some locals who had managed to steal some art from Ahmad set the stalls at the same place after his death and retained the flow of customers on this spot,” says Mohammad Yousef.

Yousef, however, laments that the Kulfi is not of that standard now what it was famous for some 20 years back.

“We are unable to maintain the same standard to this product what it was earlier when Ghulam Ahmad started,” he rues.

 He, however, blames the products available in the market. “The milk what we used to prepare this kulfi earlier is not of that standard. It is not pure. Similarly the other ingredients are also not satisfactory available in market due to which our kulfi is gradually loosing the taste,”

 In last 45 years of prospering business of mat kulfi at Bohri Kadal, it has employed as many as two generations so far from one of its mohallas.

“We are passing on to our young generation this business because we don’t want to lose it since it has a scope and potential to grow.”

17 year old Momim Chitawala is the youngest boy selling this product at this spot. He vows to continue this business of elders with pride.

“I gave up my studies at class 8 after my father was unable to continue this business.  I replaced him on his stall he sat up 25 years ago to earn my livelihood,” says Momin while serving a bowl of kulfi to customers.

 He says the stalls remain open till 11 pm every day as mostly people come in evening with their families and friends to taste it. These stalls are set up with the onset of summer in April ending and are winded up in September ahead of autumn.

Photo Credit: Xuhaib Maqbool
Photo Credit: Xuhaib Maqbool

“I come here every day in evening during summers and taste it to beat the beat. The first time I had this kulfi six years ago and since then I continuously come here in evening, sometimes along with my family to enjoy it,” says Mushtaq Ahmad of Chanapora.

However, the people associated with business claim that they receive customers from all parts of valley.

“Sometimes we are ourselves surprised to see people from far away areas of Kupwara or Shopian visiting to our stalls to enjoy kulfi. We feel humbled when we hear they came from such a long distance,” says Mohammad Yousef.

The story first appeared in print edition of 19 June 2016

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