April 23, 2010

Mumbai : The colours of Summer

Nothing ... absolutely nothing ... paints the vibrant colours of Summer in Mumbai even a fraction as much as ... golas!
Hard-packed globes of crushed ice wrapped around a stick, lollipop-style. But it doesn't stop there .... dipped in a glass of flavoured sweet syrup spiced with rather mysterious masalas, it transforms into the stuff of dreams. Dreams of frozen icy cool on a miserably boiling hot day. Of sticky, sugary flavours to be slurped up, tantalising the tastebuds and teasing the memory cells.

And the colours! Lurid, ravishing, vibrant ... golden mango, explosive orange, sunny pineapple, grape, kaalakhatta.... definitely more flavours than fruit trees could dream up .

But it is not for the squeamish or the faint-hearted. Being a transplant to Mumbai, I always found the rather dubious antecedents of the gola a bit of a restraint every time I was tempted to try one.

I found a long line of gola-wallahs busy at work on their carts on Marve Beach the other night. Don't you just love the way those bottles glow like jewels in the warm light of the lanterns ?
The colours fascinated, the icy coolness lured, but I resisted its charms. My Mumbai-bred husband shook his head at my stubborness and proceeded to gorge on frozen golas, leaving me melting in the summer heat.

Amazing how such a rickety contraption as a hand-cart, a manual ice-crusher and a super-model line-up of syrups and spices can transform into a superhero for so many Mumbai folk!

Then the other day we were driving down Linking Road, sweltering in the blistering heat with the sun snickering at the a.c. which was on full blast but might as well have not been functioning for all the good it did.
Many sweaty miserable minutes later,my husband stopped at an all-too familiar stall. And this one time, I was tempted once too often. And I gave in!

What can I say? It was like the monsoons had come early... in a sweet orangey flavour speckled with rock salt and chaat masala!

(At the time of publishing, the writer is still alive and not suffering any ill-effects after having eaten a gola. But the writer refuses to accept any responsibility for the same if the reader is tempted to have one too ;D )


  1. The last attached picture- yum yum

  2. And it was 'yum!', Hobo, much as I hate to admit it!

  3. Glad to see that you linked it from Urban Gardener....I have always felt that it needed more readership because it is just as good even as your other blogs....and hey, I will probably never make it to India, save through your posts. I console myself that your writing makes it almost as good as being there. Hugs. Lisa

  4. Oh yeah...come clean and tell us about the origins of golaas and why you are squeamish about them...when you google it, your post comes up first, and the others are about places...El Golaa!

  5. Lisa, I could hug you for that... what a nice thing to say :)
    Hmmm... the golaa... well, it is the not knowing about its origins that worries me the most. Not knowing from where they got the water that made the ice. Or the colours that make it so vibrant. Or what spices the golaa-wallah has used, etc., etc. ... you get the picture, right?
    I'm not generally much of a fusspot when it comes to what I'm eating but I draw the line at our water supply :P
    About searching for golaas online, maybe you could try again but this time spell it as 'gola'.

  6. Ok Sunita .....We do have to give in every now and then. We have something like that called snow cones, with men riding around on converted bicycles with their ice boxes and syrups. I am very dubious about the coloured syrups (not natural) and I usually choose the coconut syrup with a twirl of condense milk on the top. Yummy!

  7. You know what you are doing to us poor folks, we want to pack up and fly to India..ah ah!
    Wonderful vibrant post again.

  8. So glad you gave a link to this blog. Lovely. I must admit that I too love the colours, but do not have the gall to try it out. I even skip the pani puris. Worried about the quality of ice. Glad you have no after effects

  9. Lovely!
    The last one looks so yummy in this sweltering heat!

  10. Yup, Sno-Cones! Although the flavors aren't as interesting I'm sure--unless you count the blue one. Thanks for sharing. I hope you're finding less daring ways to beat the heat!

  11. Helen, how interesting! I'm just dying for a taste of a Snow cone right now. Cocnut with condensed milk sounds like heaven right now ;D

    Trudi, what a fantastic plan! I'll keep writing about India and tempt you into booking tickets to India. Sooner or later I'm sure you'll give in (just like I did!) ;D

    Hi Radha! Glad you dropped by :)
    Oh I know what you mean ... I find the sev puris almost irresistible. Mumbai's roadside food is just not fair on the health-conscious. They make you break every resolution you ever dreamt of making.
    I seem to have struck lucky this time but I dont plan to test my luck again ;)
    BTW, did you see that newspaper report which claims that the residents of Mumbai are much more resistant to germs and diseases than say someone in Sweden? Apparently the huge number of germs that we're exposed to every day makes us develop an immunity to them. Well!

    Bindhu, I know! That's what made me cave in.

    Shady C, I think I'm done being daring. On second thoughts, maybe I should try making one myself. How difficult can it be anyway? Okay, it may not be quite so colourful, still ...

  12. what is a 'golaa' ... is it like flavoured ice in long packets ?

  13. This reminds me of the icees we enjoy during our hot summer days. Crushed ice with a flavored syrup. Yum! Nothing tastes better on a sweltering day!

  14. Ah, the cool 'golla's. I am reminded of the goli sodas in Madras - haven't seen them in Chennai. Beautiful pictures.

  15. Deepa, take a look at the last photo. No, the golaa does not come in any packaging. Its just crushed ice wrapped around a stick and dipped into a cup of flavoured syrup and masalas before eating.

    You said it, Deb! I wonder why normal ice doesn't taste just as good, though. Icees ... that's a new name for what must be the same thing ... or at least related ;)

    Thanks, Raji. Goli sodas? I think I missed out on them in all my time in Chennai. How sad!

  16. Lovely summer colours indeed! Golas were very much a part of our chilhood days in Belgaum. And miss the golas ever since we moved. Now, in Bangalore, i dont know of a place where i can get nice golas :(
    In fact, my sis found a place and tried one, but came back so disappointed that she forbade me from buying one! Oh..i miss the golas :(

  17. I wonder whether there is any difference in the masalas added to the Belgaum golas as opposed to the Mumbai ones ... maybe someone should do a taste-check. In the interest of knowledge, of course!
    Pity about the absence of good golas in B'lore. The city has become so cosmopolitan now that I would've thought a few gola-wallahs would've drifted there from Mumbai by now. Maybe a quick trip to Belgaum (or Mumbai) to get a gola-fix will help you out?

  18. A supermodel lineup indeed! Like you, I never dared tried these concoctions (truth be told, I was never really tempted - they looked too garish and artificial) - but your description of the taste makes me want to have a lick - orangey with rock salt and chaat masala...mmmm, yummy!

  19. Of course they're artificial, Kamini! They practically scream it at you. But so does Pepsi and Coke and a whole lot of other stuff that I tell my kids they shouldn't be having (but secretly have a swig of when it gets really hot and there's a chilled bottle whispering, "drink me!")
    It was a really weird melange of flavours but surprisingly it tasted quite good when put together. And yes, the taste does linger in the memory ... ;D

  20. Fantastic captures, very colorful.

  21. Your first picture is real nice!

  22. Thank you, Indian Bazaars! (love your username, by the way!)

  23. In Puerto Rico USA, they are called Piraguas, in Mexico, Raspados...but down here they used to be sold in paper cones, with a conical shape.

    Now they are sold in plastic cups for four times the price of my childhood..

    And down there what is the cost?

  24. Interesting! I had no idea that the gola was a global phenomenon, Antigonum cajan :)
    Frankly, I have no idea what it costs because I have never bought one myself. The one I had was a stolen taste from the one my husband had bought for himself. Still, I dont think it costs much .

  25. Dear Sunita,
    I found your blogs by lucky chance and am amazed by the beauty of your photos from the urban gardener and here.
    I really enjoyed scrolling through your blogs.
    Have a great day,
    warm wishes from cold germany

  26. Thank you so much, Janine. I'm so glad you stopped to write here.
    I visited Germany years ago (Bavaria)and completely fell in love with your beautiful country.
    In a couple of months, in the middle of our boiling hot summer, I'll be thinking of your 'cold Germany' and wishing I was there :)

  27. Dear Sunita, I finally got high speed giving me a chance to read your blogs. You transport me to another beautiful side of the world. Perhaps I could look for a recipe for gola and make one with snow. They look so tempting even if I'm not even a little hot!

  28. Great idea, Becky :)
    But first, maybe you should make a trip here and taste the real thing. Just to get the taste right, you know ;D

  29. Golas at chowpatty,
    Golas outside Bandra east station.

    yum yum Golas and Bombay! :)

  30. They're kind of inseparable, aren't they? Think of Mumbai and there's a gola-wallah right next to the picture! :D

  31. lovely! am tempted to eat one after reading this though i am deeply suspicious of even bottled water in India.. :-)

  32. I don't blame you, Neetha! But sometimes I think that our water (no matter how bad) can't be worse than all those poisonous chemicals which they spray on fruits and vegetables and which we happily gobble up, thinking we're going the healthy way!