It is the height of a blistering summer in Mumbai, and K Rustom & Co, the iconic ice cream parlour at Churchgate, is having a meltdown of a different kind. The store has just lost a case against its landlord, the Cricket Club of India (CCI), in the Court of Small Causes. However, it has decided to fight till the end, ensuring that the 84-year-old shop doesn’t shut down.
After the latest development in the long-standing legal battle, the news has sparked talk of a shutdown of the ice cream shop, with some urging Mumbaikars to “go and eat your last ice cream at K Rustom”. The store spokesperson, however, asked not to believe in rumours, and said they are gearing up for a longer legal fight.
CCI President Premal Udani said, “We have cases going on against several tenants for our own use inside the Stadium House which is part of the club. The ice cream store is one such tenant.
K Rustom was doing brisk business on sweltering Monday afternoon
“We do not comment on individual cases, but since this matter seems to be in the public domain, we can confirm that the verdict is in our favour. We want and need additional space for expansion of different facilities for our members. There is an exponential growth in our members, which today stands at approximately 10,000. In this specific case, the law will take its course.”
On sweltering early Monday afternoon, K Rustom was doing brisk business with patrons snapping up the signature sandwich ice cream, weapon of choice to combat the merciless mercury. A spokesperson of the shop, requesting anonymity, said, “We are in trouble, terrible trouble. The club wants to kick us out.”
“But there is no question of closing down. This legal fight has been going on for 22 years. We are going to continue fighting,” the spokesperson said combatively. The store’s representative said, “We have been here since 1938. We are the only ‘original’ tenants of Stadium House. When we came here, this was reclaimed land. This is the history of the outlet and this is how deeply entrenched we are here.”
If public sentiment is a barometer, then K Rustom & Co is entrenched in the city’s heart. There was shock and dismay when some people learnt the store had lost the case, but there was widespread relief that eviction is not imminent.
K Rustom & Co is one of the most prominent threads in Mumbai’s historic food tapestry. From the Churchgate office crowd, to ‘ladeez’ who lunch, corporates cracking deals over power brunches ‘n’ lunches and youngsters strolling at Marine Drive, the meal for all pockets here, has very often ended with a Rustom’s ice cream.
In an age of glitz, the shop has remained steadfastly downplayed and no-frills in appearance. A functional menu board at the entrance, in an era where servers use tabs and other gizmos to take down orders, has the flavours and price alongside. Rustom or ‘Rustoms’ as it is often referred to, is one of the last of doughty SoBo institutions to survive, even as so many iconic establishments shuttered in the Art-Deco precinct.
Currently, the ice-cream shop is seeing a heavy influx of spectators picking up ice cream as they trickle in or exit Brabourne Stadium, host of a couple of matches in the high-octane Indian Premier League (IPL). There are two seasons K Rustom is playing up to–the IPL season and the mango season. Unpretentious papers stuck on the walls of its outpost: ‘King Mango Ice Cream for Rs 100’, say the mini banners. Fiercely devoted Rustom regulars may ask for the mango, but the legal setback is sure to have them worried.
The ice cream parlour is no ‘aam’ shop for so many Mumbaikars, it is an emotion. Like a Rustom representative said vehemently when this reporter visited the place on Monday, “the public will be out on the streets if we are evicted”.
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