The caption of this week’s column has nothing to do with the fairytale, where a beautiful Princess bites a poisoned apple and in so doing succumbs to a spell that causes a death-like sleep. The spell can only be broken by ‘love’s true kiss’, which is supplied by a handsome Prince and the two live happily ever after. In fact, the piece currently in your hands delves into the past to rekindle some memories concerning the Prince of all desserts - the inimitable ice cream.

Lahoris with half a century or more to their accounts will remember that the sight of a two-wheeled, white painted hand-pushed cart trundling up the driveways, always brought a smile on the heat inflicted faces of both young and old. The ‘City of Gardens’ in the 50s boasted two famous ice cream outlets, one of which, called ‘Tangiers Milk Bar’ was located in the Tollington Market, while the other known as ‘Frosty Malty’ was on the upper floor of a building near the Hall Road-Mall Intersection. The real doyens of the ice cream industry, however, were two names - ‘Snow Flake’ and ‘White Rose’.

The two brands were sold from white hand-pushed wooden carts insulated with tin sheets that were layered with ice. The ‘Snow Flake’ cart displayed a young child eating an ice cream ‘lolly’, while its competitor sported a white rose painted on its sides.

These home delivered ice creams came in three formats - there was the cup, the ‘lolly’ and finally the most popular of the lot, i.e. an ice cream slab wrapped in a paper sheath. To us as children, the most exciting moment came when the vendor, who knew us all by name, allowed us to rummage around the ice encrusted freezer in search of our favourite flavour out of the four that were usually available - vanilla, strawberry, pistachio and kulfa.

Our ‘Snow Flake wallah’ was a white-haired individual, who had trekked from his native village near Jalander in 1947, braving death at each step, in order to reach the ‘Promised Land’. This individual was also a prolific teller of tales. His favourite story was the one about the time when he sold his entire leftover stock to a customer near the Miani Sahib graveyard late at night and almost fainted with fright, when the mysterious individual dematerialised amongst the graves before his eyes. We would listen to these tall tales in mute wonderment till the time that one of our old retainers heard them and told the storyteller to ‘can it’ and stop scaring the ‘baba log’. It was after this incident that the ‘White Rose’ vendor started appearing at our house, offering his product at discounted rates. We found out much later that his appearance had been arranged by our faithful domestic to get rid of the horror storyteller.

It was somewhere in the very late fifties or early sixties that a new ice cream company, showcasing a happy clown as its symbol, appeared on the scene and was soon the rage of the town. It opened up a swank restaurant and ice cream parlour in Shah Din Building at Charing Cross and flooded the city with bicycle borne containers, sounding the end of an era for characters pushing wooden freezers and emulating ‘Orson Welles’.

The new ice cream parlour was a simple five-minute walk from our home and it was often that we found ourselves sitting on the green leather seats staring at the myriad of fishes in the large aquarium, while nibbling on wafers to keep our mouths from ‘freezing’. One character in this establishment was, perhaps, one of the reasons for it being very popular with families and children. He was an old waiter called ‘Chacha’ by all and sundry, and generated fits of mirth by exaggerated dramatic flourishes while serving customers. His antics were, perhaps, not appreciated by the management for he was apparently fired after a few performances, to the great regret of customers.

Having lost none of its preferred summer dessert status, new and exotic varieties of our favourite frozen milk product are now available nationwide, but the nostalgia of the ice cream man, with his repertoire of tall tales, wise cracks and local news is no more, creating a nostalgic void in a small, but historic niche of the Lahori scene.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.