The mouthwatering baraf golas are a ubiquitous sight on Indian roads. One of the most sought after street foods the golas also called chuski needs no introduction to anyone grown up in the hot scorching heat of Indian towns and cities. Crushed ice put together like a lollipop on a stick and dipped in syrups of various flavors takes an immense amount of effort to stay away from. This is truer when the colorful chilled golas are found parked on roadside stalls on sweltering hot days.
Whether as kids or as adults, the baraf golas are one of the most irresistible delicacies that generations can identify and connect memories with. And let’s not forget the baraf gola man. That one ‘chacha’ or ‘bhaiyya’, who stands with his cart laden with colorful elongated glass bottles, some orange, some red, some yellow and some purple. In other words, kachi kerri, kala khatta, rose sherbet, pineapple sherbet and more. The ice crushing machine rooted on the cart efficiently rotated by him collects the ice that drizzles down in blistering transparency. The crushed ice is scooped up in quick reflex and transferred into the glass, tipped and tapped while the stick inserted with deftness. The gola is then pulled out in perfect shape as the baraf gola man waits patiently for his customers to decide and fret over the different flavors of syrup. The colors are painted over the white snow lollipop that blazes into a frenzy of tempting vibrancy. And almost in a gesture that is equivalent to grabbing; the gola is licked and slurped upon until the entire crushed ice is devoured. Many times I have wondered that sucking on the gola with so much energy could be a good exercise for the lungs. You know, inhale with the mouth with force which makes the face muscles strong and do so in quick succession before the ice melts to ensure a healthy heart.
History of Baraf Golas
Crushed and shaved ice is believed to have been invented by the Japanese around the first century AD. They brought it with them to Hawaii when they migrated and today the Hawaii shave ice is quite a popular serving. It became famous during the Industrial Revolution when vehicles carrying ice blocks moved across the USA and distributed the ice shaves to kids. Hence, the gola though a very Indianised version, is also popular in other parts of the world. The snow ball and snow cone in North America, the raspa in Texas and Mexico, the shave ice with a scoop of ice cream in Hawaii and the Ais kacang in Singapore and Malaysia are all different variations of the Indian baraf gola.
Health and hygiene
As kids we didn’t think twice before slurping on the tantalizing golas, yet today as parents, we find it difficult to let our children suck on a gola as carelessly as we did. Various factors account for this. The quality of water and the change in climate are however, the primary reasons. On a hot day it is advised by medical experts to avoid the intake of ice because that could lead to a sudden change in body temperature and lead to illness. The quality of water used to make ice is another area of contention as we know that adulteration; especially in water is a common concern these days. To overcome these certain branded companies have ventured into the market, providing golas made from mineral water and ensuring that they are made in hygienic surroundings. Similarly, certain artificial syrups also lead to throat ailments and one has to be careful and aware about them.
Yet, not only the baraf golas, but if you see the street foods in India, most are not always prepared in the best hygienic surroundings. But the good thing is that they are up in front for the customers to see exactly how they are being prepared and what they entail. The ingredients or finished products are not behind closed doors of secrecy and the makers open to any questioning that one might have. The fact that street foods continue to be craved and loved by a large population who seemingly or necessarily do not fall sick after consuming it is a point in case.
The baraf golas continue to be a delightful dessert or snack for all age groups. The non-sophisticated way of eating it, if there is any, only highlights its sheer charm and nostalgic value. I mean it’s probably one of the only foods where the sound of slurping rings in your ears as you suck on the cool icy flavors and no one really minds. The want of thirst, chill and tang are all quenched in each ‘chuski’ of the gola.
The next time you see the baraf gola stall anywhere near you indulge in some colorful icy chill to beat the heat. However, do it more to remind you of childhood and of simple joys of life.