When I was a kid, we never bought chocolates in our family very often. I am sure none of us did, waiting for the opportune moment as kids when some certain nice guests would show up, and in the process of gulping in tea, would take out few bars of chocolates from his pocket. It is funny how you noticed the elevated rectangular thing in his pocket all this while, yet you were not allowed to seem too eager or keen. You were supposed to look coyly at your parents, seeking silent permission, when they would accede, provided the chocolate wasn’t too expensive. Then, you would be expected to thank the guests, accept the chocolate, yet still not open it or eat it in front of the guests. Like a nice kid, you would put it in the fridge, and forget about it. The guests wasn’t supposed to know that the moment the door closed behind him (after thanking him again for his kindness and chocolate for the 113th time now), I would spring in action, somersault and jump, cross 7 mountains and 13 rivers, and sprint to reach the fridge and grab that bar of chocolate. Had that guest been forgetful, he would have witnessed a very nasty scene of chocolate all over my hands and face on his way back to collecting his forgotten umbrella or car keys. Something quite contrary to the image that had been portrayed for the last couple of hours.
Our family used to be unique in another way. Chocolates were never divided amongst the two siblings. It was always divided equally into 4 shares. 3 out of the 4 shares went to my brother, my dad, and me respectively, while mom would have a bite of her share. Then, she would again distribute her share amongst us. Our family didn’t believe that chocolate was meant for kids. It was meant for everyone in the family. That included my grandmother as well.
it’s clear from advertising from the latter part of the nineteenth century that whether the companies like to admit it or not, children were a major target audience for chocolate. The industrialisation of chocolate production meant that it could be made cheaply available to the masses, and this, coupled with innovatory methods, meant that the chocolate manufacturers were able to make very child-friendly products.
Anyway, the third thing was 'the taste of chocolates' never lingered in our mouths. No sooner did we finish our share (and mom’s share, and anything remaining, depending on who was stronger), we were expected to go brush our teeth. All my milk teeth removed have been attributable to my dental cavities. Last I heard, my childhood dentist who had made a small fortune out of the fee my dad paid him, and his son is attending a college in London. Yet as an incentive for the painful process of tooth pulling, I always bargained, argued, bickered, and have fought for more chocolates. Of course as dedicated chocolateers we would like to think that all chocolate is good for us (‘a little bit of what you fancy’ and all that).
The taste of chocolates in my childhood, if I remember correctly, used to be much sweeter. This was perhaps because both quantity of consumption and the frequency of buying were powered in the hands of my parents. Even though I knew I had 8 small bars of chocolates in my share, I couldn't finish it off in one go. I was expected to save it for days till most of it either went to the ants or into the neighbour’s child’s stomach. Self-sacrifice and controlling greed were virtues that always stood with monstrosity against my chocolate munching. Things got worse especially after my little brother sprouted teeth and learnt to talk and complain and cry because after finishing my share, I would always eat his share. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t very fond of chocolates, the chocolates still had to be there every time I opened the fridge just to tempt me and torture me and teach me qualities such as self-restraint.
The chocolates of those days were very different from the chocolates of today. Not only were there less choices and less brands, there was a clear distinction between what chocolates must be had on what occasion. And while I write this, I can’t help but salivate profusely, thinking of the different memories of my childhood these chocolates bring back. The link between chocolates and me was so strong that at times it seemed as a right rather than a luxury. It has so many things wrapped up in it: Deliciousness in the moment, childhood memories, and that grin-inducing feeling of getting a reward for being good. Life without chocolate is like a beach without water.
I'd like to dedicate this post to my closest friend Mashaal Irfan, who is a chocolate lover herself. For her 'if it ain't chocolate, it ain't breakfast' and she thinks that there's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with a Chocolate. :D