Sometimes, when a smell just enters my olfactory senses, it shoots up straight to my brain and brings up memories that I did not even realize I possessed. I taste the fruity flavours of Chiclets in the back of my throat every time I walk down the aisles of grocery stores. I feel the phantom lump of gum press between my molars and I subconsciously start chewing on air.
Sometimes when I hear a particularly shrill bell, I am reminded of the times when my cousins and I would gather around my grandmother, late after dinner, listening to her soothing voice narrating stories that took place decades ago. We would hear the jingles of the Golawala (Popsicle man) and instantly perk up, extending our palms towards her for that 2 Rupees coin that would buy us the extremely unhygienic but heavenly ice sucker.
Some days, I randomly taste the powder of the Kurkure Solid Masti Twisteez that I licked off of my fingers after probably devouring more than a healthy amount of it. The yellow packet drew every child’s eyes towards it. Conveniently shaped like a Rotini pasta, and sprinkled with a variety of Indian spices, the all-time favourite snacks were not any less tangy than a bowl of red sauce pasta. Just the sound of it makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? This masterpiece was one of those things that my mother had to lock up in steel bins and hide them high on the cupboard shelves to make me stop munching on them before dinner and lose my appetite.
The Premium Quality snacks, also called Cadbury Bytes, was a chocolate filled, bite-sized, wafer pillow that made every person keep coming back for more. As a child, the contents of my school bag included all the classroom necessities along with a packet of Bytes. It was much more than a snack, it was an opportunity. If you were an introverted kid like me, you could attract a plethora of new friends with it. And if you were extroverted, a packet of Bytes was all you needed to get a cliché introverted sidekick. One bite (byte) of this and all other biscuits would be instantly forgotten.
Another snack that I was obsessed with (still am) was the Indian Chatpatta Hippo (light Purple packet). In those days, money or material did not determine your status, the choice of your favourite Hippo chips flavour did. The chips, with their peculiar shape of a fat biscuit and addicting flavours, won the hearts of children all over the country. The ‘Pyaar baattey chalo’ song in the advertisement, which would play in our heads in a loop, suggested that Hippo could kill hunger which was the root of all evil. And it stayed true to its promise. From acting as a filling after-school snack to an apology gift, Hippo did wonders.
Some girls felt special when they wore the cheap plastic silver crowns with fur on its edges. Some felt special when their parents bought them three-storeyed Barbie houses. I felt special when I got to eat a Dairy Milk Wowie. The plain, creamy chocolate bar, decorated with vanilla flavoured characters from Mickey Mouse and the Club House, was the supreme level treat for a person of any age. There were rules that were to be followed while eating a Wowie. Always begin by eating the chocolate part so that you would be left with the vanilla centre in the end. The chocolate, in itself, was not any different from your average Dairy Milk bar but the prospect of having Mickey Mouse in the centre of my chocolate would simply excite me. I, of course, devoured it before school while watching Mickey Mouse and the Club House on my Toshiba Box TV.
One chocolate powder that I used to believe only existed in my household was the Nestle Nesquik, which weirdly tasted as bad as medicine with warm milk but extremely delicious when blended with cold milk. Nesquik was the only chocolate-based item in my house which I could not wait to finish and never feel the dreadful taste of again. But with my luck, a new box would always be waiting to be opened as soon as the old one neared its ending. I remember the time when I had to stay with my aunt for a week and she bought a box of Nesquik to make me feel more at home. The barely used box was sent back home with me. I would not go as far as to say that the milk powder is not worth giving a shot (If you are really into chocolate drinks and creepy squirrels in blue tracks smiling at you) but it surely is the one snack from my childhood that I do not miss.
When I say that I can sometimes taste images, what I mean is that I taste the crunchiness and the chocolatey flavour of the Cadbury Perk Poppers that were the mini, cheap, Ferrero Rochers of olden times. Perk Poppers were those chocolates that you wished were given when the grocery store cashier did not have open change. The chocolate melted in your hands, making you lick your fingers to get it off. And after licking off all the chocolate of the wafer ball, the crunchy delight neutralized the sweet taste with its blandness. These were what the kids dealt in the allies behind schools, in their recess breaks. Perk poppers were the perfect chocolate to eat in class, behind the teachers back – small, easily hidden under the tongue, easily swallowable and tasty enough to want more.
I could go on and on about the snacks from my childhood that I would trade my last breaths for, but deep down I know that I can only live in melancholy, tasting them in my mind and never in real life. No matter how many petitions we sign, some things are never coming back from the past. And in a way, I feel relieved because we often tend to glorify the feeling of those things that we have lost. Perhaps the sadness of never tasting them again is better than realizing that their over-the-top standards of greatness exist only in my mind.
Thank you for having this absurd conversation over tea with Ishita Agarwal :)
It's is so well written 😶 it reminded me of every memory I had with these snacks and honestly the thought that hippo isn't coming back is depressing 🥺
Very well written