Enjoy a sundae with a sunset before it’s too late.
It seems like yesterday, but it was more than 20 years ago, sometime in the mid 90's. My extended family and I crammed into the old White Ambassador. It was no mean feat, there were 9 of us. We rolled through the not so dirty, freshly green, post rain, winding lanes of the City of Joy. We hopped off at the majestic gates of the white beauty - Victoria Memorial, slowly strolled through the verdant gardens, were dazzled by the musical fountain show in it's backyard, and finally ended the evening with big scoops of butterscotch ice-cream, or a chocolate sundae (if it was a really special occasion), in a tiny nondescript two floor building above the Ghats of the Ganga called the The Scoop.
The Victoria Memorial. Image source: wikimediacommons.com
Yes, The Scoop not The Scoop Cafe. They are as no nonsense with their name, as they are with their menu that back then served only ice-cream and French fries, and décor that till today comprises of the most basic plastic tables and chairs.
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Looking at the sunset streamed colours filtering in through the glass windows, lost in the haze of the little dinghies floating past us on the shoulders of the mighty Ganga, ice-cream streaming down our faces and hands, my siblings and I had the most content smiles on our faces. This was the hallowed ‘best day of the year' that we eagerly waited for every year, with overflowing suitcases slammed shut with jumping dances, and a day's journey rattling on a train that sometimes extended to two days. We the Probashi Bengali's had returned, and the pukka Calcutta Bangali's were giving us a slice of their beautiful city, served with a coaster on the glassy banks of the river. This was a yearly ritual for us. For the uninitiated, the word Probashi literally means someone who lives outside, and a ‘Probashi Bengali' is a Bengali born and/or raised outside Bengal. My family and I were exactly that.
My comfort place. Image source: justdial.com
For many years The Scoop remained a place of perfection, carved in my head in its rectangular sturdiness, with all the sweetness of innocent childhood memories. Then teenage happened, and the Probashi's returned to settle down in Calcutta. Soon it was rechristened Kolkata, and The Scoop too regained a whole new aura. A boat ride led my friends and I to Babu Ghat again, and remembering the old days I strolled in with them to revisit the good old times. But new memories were waiting for us, eager lovers vying for a corner seat so they could hold hands under the table, sharing a sundae to give college brokeness the tinted beauty of romance. We shuffled through the years, ignoring the pilling grime on the tables, the fading wallpapers, the peeling paint and the rusty shutters. The Scoop settled back into the memories of a diary for me, and I set sail for new shores.
Old school love. Image source: tripadvisor.com
Years went by, boat rides with stolen kisses were exchanged for the comfort of nostalgia by the Ghat. Cemented in a firm today, The Scoop stood there as a gauging old love, sizing up the new husband, as I walked in with him one day. We still had to stand in line for a token, and then again for the swift sundae whipped up with dexterous unwashed hands. We still had to walk up the carpeted narrow red stairs, and vie for a quiet corner seat with a view in the musty glass house upstairs. We still had to keep our ears pricked, to hear if it was our number to go and get the French fries from below. And we could still peer through the glass (ignoring our reflection), at the darkening river bringing home the dinghies on a grey monsoon evening. A bright new PVR shining across the shore on the other side of the river was the only new addition in this house of memories, along with a few new eatables like sandwiches and pizza on the menu.
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The Scoop remains staunchly simple, in the food they serve, their ambience and their rigid refusal to join the rat race of advertisements. The paint may have peeled more, making home for mould; the posters may have faded the red Kwality ad's into a subtle pink. But it’s still home, still old-school, still uncompetitive, still standing tall in all its austerity.
Come if you please it states, with the bold directness that only time-honoured establishments like Kayani's, Britannia & Co., or a Goodluck Café can flaunt. How old is this little ice-cream parlour? Maybe 30 years or 40, Google is a bit unhelpful about this, but it has been with me long enough to leave an impression for a lifetime.
You can visit this hidden piece of Kolkata at 71, Strand Road, Dalhousie BBD Bagh, right next to Babu Ghat. Any of the single scoop ice creams are good value for money. If you want to splurge, you can go for the ice cream sundae. My personal favourite is ‘Cookie Crumble', but ‘As You Like It' is another great option, as it allows you to select any 3 scoops of your choice. You can take a romantic pre-sunset boat ride, and then enjoy a sundae with a sunset in this noisy little ice-cream parlour, unchanged with time.
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By Rhea Purnita Paine
Cover photo credit: pixabay.com