(Prakash Kulfi Chauraha)
Prakash Chandra Arora’s family was displaced from West Punjab and arrived in Bareilly in 1947. A few years later, Prakash Chandra came to Lucknow, seeking employment, with just one rupee in his pocket. He worked at several places, but ultimately started his own business—selling kulfi from a small wooden platform near Aminabad Park. His untiring labour enabled him to acquire the current premises in 1956. Growing responsibilities and commercial constraints (a serving of kulfi would sell for at most 4-12 annas in those times) kept him tied to the shop. But it was rewarding, too, as Lucknow took to his kulfi-falooda so eagerly that “Prakash Kulfi” soon became a byword. He invented new flavours. Even today, saffron, paan and rose kulfi are extremely popular. Common people and celebrities from India and other countries are unanimous in their praise for the kulfi available here. Gradually, finances began to improve, but when Prakash Chandra started building a home for his family in the 1980s, he was deep in debt. One worker stood by him through thick and thin.
Prakash Chandra’s son Harsh Kumar Arora has been associated with the outlet for the past 23 years. When he was a boy, he recalls, he used to come to the shop “well-dressed.” He found it embarrassing that his father would be working away at the shopfront, even holding a bowl of kulfi for customers in his own hand. His father would explain to him gently, that it was a matter of pride, not shame, to serve a customer. Prakash Chandra passed away in 1993. His four sons inherited the shop, but now only Harsh Kumar can devote time to it. Two of his brothers are no more, and the surviving older brother is not too well. His nephews take care of four branches of this establishment; in Nishatganj, Gomti Nagar, Chowk and Alambagh. Kulfi is still made in the traditional way. The mix is sealed in iron cans and frozen in a big pot with the help of ammonium chloride and salt. Harsh says that freezers make the kulfi too hard. In the early days, the outlet would open from the festivals of Shivaratri (February) to Ganga Snan (November). Employees would be laid off, but would set up tea stalls etc. outside the premises. These days, it is open all the year round. Such great crowds are witnessed during Bada Mangal (May), that they are unable to serve everyone despite their best efforts. Sales certainly drop in the winters, though. Harsh Kumar has seen the price of their wares rising from ₹ 2 a serving to ₹ 140 currently. But his customers are not complaining, because they understand that “kulfi is kulfi—not ice cream!”