KARACHI: Wisps of steam streamed out of Muhammad Jamal’s mouth as he took the first bite of his gola ganda. Dressed in a white dress shirt and navy blue tie, he wipes sweat off his neck and forehead as he stands in the blistering heat, savouring his icy treat.
Jamal was on his way home from work but could not resist the lure of a cup of gola ganda.
As summer heat grips the city, residents are eager to beat the heat by any means possible. One of the most popular methods is by eating icy treats such as gola ganda.
Ghazi Salahuddin Road in Dhoraji Society is one of the most famous locations in the city for gola ganda, limcas and ice cream faloodas. There are around 40 different carts set up on the footpaths of the street.
Shaved ice drenched in raspberry, rooh-afza, orange, pineapple or ice cream soda flavoured syrup and topped with canned fruit, dried fruit and condensed milk makes up a gola ganda. In Dhoraji, the treat costs between Rs50 to Rs150, depending on the toppings.
The falooda sold on the street cost Rs160, while a chilled glass of limca is sold for Rs60.
Three friends, Asif, Rehan and Sakhi, settled in the plastic chairs set up near the roadside stall and yelled out for three chilled gola ganda. Sakhi said they have come from very far away and, as they were travelling on a motorcycle, had to suffer through the warm, humid weather that made them very thirsty.
Dhoraji – home to gola gandas
The road is lit up at night as the carts glow under colourful lights and smiling families come out for a stroll and sweet treat.
Uncle Gola, Saleem Qadir Gola, Qadri Gola and Marhaba Gola are some of the famous vendors who sell shaved ice on the street. Imran Ahmed of Saleem Qadir Gola said their business starts at 12pm and continues for the next 14 hours. He said that the history of this street selling gola gandas goes back around 45 years to when Saleem Qadir Gola and two or three others vendors put up their carts here. Soon after, many other vendors began to set up their carts on the same road.
Talking about the business, Ahmed said that on average they earn around Rs10,000 per day but on a warm day they can earn up to Rs14,000.
Responding to a question about contaminated ice and water used to make the gola ganda, Ahmed said that the ice used is brought from depots. “We can only ask them to make the ice with clean water but no one can guarantee the quality of the ice,” he lamented. He said that if for example they started to make the ice at home with boiled water, then the cost of the gola ganda will increase, which only the elites can afford.
The same ice is also purchased and used in homes and no one raises any questions over that, Ahmed said. “People only need chilled liquids during the summer and that is what we are giving them,” he said. He said that other than the ice, which they cannot guarantee, everything is clean at their stall and the syrups are made at home with sugar and artificial flavouring.
Rab Nawaz, a waiter at Uncle Gola, said there is a competition among all the vendors but no jealousy among them. “I have worked on this street for the past 15 years and some of our customers are permanent and we know what they want,” he said. Nawaz added that not only in the summer, but days in the winter are also warm. Therefore, their business is not really affected during the cold season.
He added that apart from gola ganda, each cart also sells savoury items such as channa chat, paani puri, bun kebab and soup.
Former chairperson at Karachi University’s food science department, Prof Abid Hasnain, told The Express Tribune that having gola ganda is akin to fooling your eyes when every other part of your body knows the truth. We all know the quality of the ice and these flavours, he said.
Prof Hasnain said the ice slabs contain rust and iron particles, both of which are very dangerous for human beings. Unfortunately, he added, these cheap confectionaries made from ice from depots are all that poor people can afford.
He pointed out that never in his life has he heard of any government department closing or sealing ice depots for producing unhygienic ice. He advised citizens to choose other alternatives on hot days such as homemade citrus juices instead of these unhygienic options.