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Ode to Kala Khatta

This summer treat is best described as nostalgia on a stick
Kala Khatta

My first introduction to gola was as a three-year-old and in May — the official month to consume all things cold. Unlike most children, I was privileged to have a mum who didn’t yell at me for eating ice cream, gola or anything cold. As a toddler attending my aunt’s wedding, I was left to do whatever I pleased without constant supervision by my mum. Naturally, my first stop was the ‘gole-wale uncle’ where I opted for not one, but seven golas within two hours. But not a single one was the kala khatta at that time. 

When I hear my mum retell this story now, I always wonder how is it humanely possible for a three-year-old to eat seven golas? I wouldn’t have stopped if it wasn’t for my cousin who took me to my mum with my tongue all colourful, thanks to the sweet syrup spread generously on the quintessential summer treat. My go-to flavour? All mix! In my 20s, I now find myself judging my choice back then because my choice is always kala khatta now. 

Kala Khatta, that often resembles a black sludge, is in fact the epitome of summer nostalgia for most Indians. This black chatpata, sweet syrup is poured on shaved ice. Whether you call it a chuski, barf ka gola, ice lolly, or just a gola — it is the ultimate summer relief for not only children but adults as well. 

Growing up, Kala Khatta soon became a staple at home as well. Summer vacation as a child meant playing for hours in the scorching heat and then coming home, just to open the refrigerator to find a vessel of Kala Khatta sherbet. It was always an alternate between aam panna, nimbu paani, or the Kala Khatta sherbet in summer. Unlike my friends, my home did not have restrictions on consuming these chilled coolers. However, as much as my mum would tell me not to drink something cold immediately after coming back from being in the sun, she also knew that I wasn’t going to listen to her. A chilled glass of this black jamun, blackberry-tasting drink with just the right amount of chaat masala after an afternoon of playing with friends is the most vivid summer memory of mine. 

Kala Khatta

Photos: Canva

Kala Khatta also became an excuse for me to go out at night for a short drive with my parents. Almost every night, I found myself convincing my parents to take me to our usual gola spot — an old uncle who only stood there during summers with a cart, a gola machine, and a variety of different coloured syrups on his cart. One day, my mum, who generally skips our daily gola treats, opted for one. But it was gola with a twist. “Ek Kala Khatta chammach dena,” she told the uncle and that is why my life changed. Chammach was essentially crushed ice and syrup. The name derives from the Hindi word for spoon because it is a variation of gola you can eat with a spoon. Since then, my go-to became a Kala Khatta chammach because I didn’t have the pressure of finishing it early because it was already shaved and it was the best thing ever, mainly because of how convenient it was. 

20 years later, I still stand in front of the same uncle every summer, waiting for my turn to get a Kala Khatta gola or a chammach. I see the colourful bottles and my mind still goes to how I would get all syrup mixed in one gola just to get something colourful. I admit, I am still tempted to do that —mainly for how colourful it looks — but now I prefer the sweet and tart taste of the Kala Khatta, my go-to choice!