Posted on March 13, 2010


To me, it was forbidden fruit.

Dressed in the happiest colours with the faces of my favourite cartoon characters smiling at me, they would sit there tempting me, teasing me through the glass counter of Shilpa Stores. While running errands for my mother, I’d lean against the counter clutching at the Rs. 10 I had in my hand, wishing I could spend 1/10th the amount for 1 of those beauties. But knew I’d get caught and I dared not risk amma’s wrath. I would glare back at Maugli’s mischievous face challenging me to cave in, but I never did.

I got hold of one quite by accident, if amma had known that there was one in my goodie bag from a friend’s birthday party, she would have “tchutched” at the carelessness of the parents of the ‘unfortunate’ child, while I would have writhed with jealousy at this unfair advantage in the parent domain.

But I discovered it, hid it away in the secret pocket of my sweater; usually reserved for my precious marbles and waited with a level of self restraint I now envy. At night, when everyone had gone to sleep, I slipped across to my cupboard where I had carefully hung up the sweater, grabbed my little treat and crept up under the sheets shutting away prying eyes.

All my restraint was by now completely exhausted and I ripped the cover apart wishing to wipe out Maugli’s jeering face in one vicious movement, wanting the last laugh.

And there it was, just as I’d seen on television, sitting in the palm of my hand in all its sinfulness. I contemplated decimating it as I’d done the wrapper but decided against it. This moment was too long in the making. I wanted it all. I wanted it to fill my mouth. I wanted to feel my teeth sink into it slowly as the hidden juice poured forth. I wanted it to last forever.

I don’t really remember what it tasted like. I remember being shocked by how sweet it was. I remember feeling vaguely disappointed that the blue and pink sides didn’t taste very different. I also remember brushing it aside chastising myself for under-selling my victory. I remember my jaw hurting from all the chomping. I remember waking up with the sickly taste of sweetness on my tongue. I also remember bragging about it to Ashok, bullying him about how wonderful a bubblegum tasted and how if he ever told amma about my piece of mischief he’d never get to taste one in his life.

I’ve chewed many a bubblegum after, sometimes in secret and sometimes on my mother’s indulgence. But it is always tinged with that initial disappointment and a nagging thought: did Maugli have the last laugh after all?

Posted in: Memories