It was during those days with L that I got introduced to the attractive delicacies sold in the petty shops on the way to school. There were some umpteen shops on the way, each specializing in something or the other, needless to say, junk food of those times! There were these cookies in a bakery, all loaded with dalda/margarine, ranging from 20 paise to 1 rupee; there were deep fried fryums (boti) for 5 paise each, peppermint for 5 paise, cut fruits and cucumber, may be for a similar value, cotton candies, chocolates from Nestle, Pary’s, Cadbury’s, and some with no brand but very popular; there was this gadi wala with some colorful rubbery candy, that he used to make as various designs, as wrist watches, rings, or lolli pops, etc; and there were these chikis of various forms and sizes; honey cake for about 2 rupees a piece, and many many goodies like this. Ohh whatever happened to those small coins and the goodies they used to bring, now!! I guess today’s kids haven’t even seen a 50 paise coin!
Mom, being a good and experimental cook, used to make many snacks at home and pack for school too. She even used to bake a couple of cakes and cookies too, something very big for those days. Needless to say, they were far healthier and of great standards, and of course something less attractive for a 7 year old who was exposed to a hundred different things outside :)
This girl L used to always have some money with her. Sometimes less than a rupee, and more often more than a few rupees, sometimes even 5 or 10. Now, looking at the values of stuff mentioned above in that age, this was quite a money to splurge, esp by school kids.
So she introduced me to various shops on the way, which I had only seen till now, or may be mom bought me a pencil or eraser from one of these occasionally. Every day, she’ll buy a different item, depending on how much money she had and would give me a small portion out of it. And I’d devour the taste of all these new colorful, exciting stuff! That was when I tasted my first honey cake, one of her favorite costly treats, the deep fried fryums (mom always made happaLa-sandige at home and fried them in good oil), some open candies like peppermint, orange candy etc (dad and mom used to get only covered candies), and so on. Even at school, there were kids who would go out in the lunch break and buy some goodies from the innumerable shops surrounding.
Even after having had all these, the greedy me was always eyeing one bakery very close to school where there were a hundred kinds of cookies in jars on the counter. These cookies used to attract me every day, but L had not bought these even once. And my self esteem would not let me ask her to buy me one of those! One of the days I even mustered up courage to go up to the shop and ask about the prices of these cookies. They ranged from 20 paise to 1 rupee.
Back home when there was some change left out on the table or counter, I’d eye them and evaluate the coins to the cookies that I wanted. If I had even faintly asked me parents I wanted to taste one of these, they’d have definitely bought me, but I didn’t. I picked up one coin first and carefully hid it in my uniform pocket. And the same day in the lunch break, I walked up to the shop and handed him the only coin I had and asked for the least expensive cookie. I still remember the taste of it. It was a salt biscuit, the size of today’s 2-rupee coin. Hmmm… it was tasty! Esp since it was stolen, I believe!
So this continued; I tasted a few other cookies and candies like this, each time getting more courageous.
My parents were, as always smarter than me, and had doubted about this. (I wonder how, but will ask mom after showing this story!) But they wanted to confirm before confronting me. So on a Sunday, dad had left some change, quite many coins than usual, along with his wallet on a table when he went to bath. And mom also made sure she didn’t come to that room for a long enough time for me to pick them and hide them. I thought I had accomplished something with great success, but I was wrong. They had counted all the coins and kept them and now, it was clear that I had picked whatever was missing.
And then began another counseling session! I sobbed, and was sure something terrible was to happen now. I guess I lied to them at first, and then admitted. I confessed on doing it for some days now and told them what I did with the money. They told me about Mahatma Gandhi’s story of stealing his dad’s pen, and said it was okay! Surprisingly, they didn’t scold me or beat me, only explained to me it was wrong. They could have falsely suspected the maid for what I had done, they could then lose trust in me if I continued it and so on.
And then they decided to give me some pocket money every day. It was 25 paise a day. I could use it every day or save it for a couple of days for a bigger cookie, or save some for the future and make a big sum of it and use it for a bigger thing. Whatever I did with it was up to me, it was my money! But there were some important things that had to be kept in mind:
- No open foods - they are very unhealthy because of the dust, dirt and germs on them
- No cut fruits/veggies for the same reasons
- No boiled food - like boiled corn or boiled peanuts - the water they’d have used might be very unhygienic and unhealthy
- Not too much of fried foods, as the oil they use is not as good as the ones used at home
- Cookies can be had occasionally as they are mostly with dalda and not pure ghee, which is not healthy in the long run
Yes, there were a lot many things to have in spite of all these No’s. I did use the money for my little pleasures, but also made sure I saved it (More about the savings in a later post). The amount I got, almost doubled every year, became a weekly sum from daily, and then monthly. By the time of college I was getting about 500 bucks, but I had also learnt to use it meticulously.
Pics Courtesy Google Image Search