I rarely eat anything from my childhood. But…
As I pondered today’s Jetpack prompt question, one memory returned. My first bite of chocolate.
My faithful readers will not be surprised. Heh.
After all, chocolate whispers sweet, intense desires to open my wallet and spend on it.
That was the crux of my first taste and no more after that for eons: money. Resistance is futile today (ain’t credit great!) but not back then.
Down the road a bit from where we lived in Bombay sat the bunya shop. (Sorry if I misspelled. I only ever heard the word bunya as a child.) The bunya shop sold everything we needed. (“Want” buying was not an option for us, except maybe once in 5 years.) The owner stood behind the counter, a big man, same dark complexion as Daddy, but rounder in the belly that pushed against his cluttered counter at my head height, his bulk soaring way above me.
He intimidated me until the day he leaned over his counter and offered me something.
“Would the little madam like to try this?” he asked as he stretched out his arm over the small cleared section of the counter. His fingers stretched upwards, pinched around a bar, holding it up like an offering.
I was unsure. Mummy didn’t say anything. Daddy watched.
The big man smiled and said, “You’ll like it. Try it.” Boy, was that an understatement. Like? Hah! I stared at this strange thing, hidden inside gaudy paper. He smiled, retreated, unwrapped it for me, and stretched his arm out again so I could see what the paper had hidden. Dark. A deep brown, darker than the man’s skin. Rectangular. Hard looking. Kind of boring. Not like candy at all. My eyes were unimpressed, but the adults seemed to think this was worth trying.
I slowly raised my arm up and gingerly took the small bar. It looked giant in my fingers.
“What do you say?” Mummy instructed.
“Thank you,” I said as I examined the dark chocolate that was beginning to melt and coat my fingertips.
“Hurry or it’ll be all gone,” the bunya chuffed me along.
I nibbled at its edge. Holy cow! My eyes shot wide open. My tastebuds danced, demanding more. My brain went into ecstasy. My entire being vibrated with energetic life. I ate the whole thing and wanted more.
“Not now,” Mummy said. “Don’t be greedy.”Daddy and Mummy had already paid for our purchases; the chocolate had been a gift to me from the bunya. So we left, me looking longingly over my shoulder at those gaudily wrapped bars sequestered on the bunya’s counter.
Having absolutely no idea how expensive chocolate was, I had no hesitation in begging for more every time we went. The bunya was happy to indulge my desire for free, but my mother was not having any of that. If I was to have chocolate, my parents would pay for it. And since they didn’t have the money to do so, ergo no chocolate for me. I felt like I’d been given a taste of water in the desert then left without any in the vastness of time and endless sand.
I have this vague memory of my ayah Lily letting the bunya give me a free piece when it was just me and her who went to the shop. Lily came to us when I was 4 years old or almost 4, so it was a long, long, loooonnnng time before I could arrange that. I’d had that eye-opening, brain-pleasing delight when I was 3, I think. Such is time when a child that a year feels forever. Although given how adults have responded to pandemic protections, a year seems to feel like eternity to the pampered set and those easily duped by charlatans speaking sweet nothings of times gone by and wouldn’t it be nice to pretend no virus will get them.
Bite into a piece of dark chocolate with juicy cherries, lick the melted smoothness off your fingertips, and then the N95 masks, HEPA filters, open windows, physical distancing, virtual meetings and outdoor get-togethers in all weathers, and hand washing don’t seem like a big deal at all.