Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sweet Cigarettes

We lived in Delhi for three years, from 2nd standard to the end of fourth. Appa was a Lt. Col then and accommodation was hard to come by. So, we spent the first 6 months of our stay, living with Mummy. Mummy was the mother of one of Appa's course mates and had graciously offered to take us in while we were house hunting. Everyone called her Mummy, I've never learnt her real name.
She was tiny, with a tongue like a whiplash and jet black hair that she dyed every Sunday. She taught Amma north-Indian cooking (for which we will all be eternally grateful) and she communicated her love for mushy Hindi movies to me.

On weekends, Mummy used to bribe me and K with money, to help her out with the dusting. After a morning spent carefully dusting Mummy's drawing room china, I would hurry out importantly to the general store outside, a five rupee coin clutched tightly in my palm. Five rupee coins in those days were giant and weighty. I couldn't close my palm around one. There was so much you could buy with five rupees in that general store. Poppins in violent colours, coated with crusty sugar. Giant toffee eclairs that didn't quite fit in my mouth. Heart shaped lollipops that I could never lick on patiently and would simply crunch down in a jiffy. But my favourites were the cigarettes. Long white cylinders of sugar, with a vermilion tip painted at the end.

Those cigarettes were fascinating. You could literally smoke one- the stub would get shorter and shorter as the sugar dissolved in your mouth until you finally reached the tip which you then crunched down. I don't think they ever tasted really great- they were rather chalky and bland. But that didn't matter, because they came in a proper paper pack that you could flick open and hand around to your closest friends- they were the essence of cool. Winter time was the best, because then you could blow out in the cold air after pulling at the cigarette, and the condensation would form 'smoke'.

I don't think they make those sugar cigarettes anymore. I haven't seen them around for years. But thanks to my seven-year-old, knee sock wearing, chubby, earnest self, they'll always be the first thing I look for in a general store.


Anonymous said...

:) they still make them :) i saw them this winter when i went home in hands of kindergarteners :P

Ralph said...

I bought a pack sometime last year, in a shop in between main and yp gate. I used to buy all my biscuits from that shop, don't know if it's still there.

Ravali said...

they used to make these easter eggs (sugar coated) and red lollipops...and a packet of those yellow 'rolls'

aaaaaaaaa..... those days !!

Karthik Shekhar said...

In my final year at IIT, I found out that they still sold these 'packs' opposite chowpatty beach. Maybe you should go look for some stash if you're still craving for them :-)

Neeta said...

The whole of your posts related to childhood seem like a wonderful story when you read it...esp. with all the description of new places and people! I mean all the vivid details..I almost forgot that those cigarette candies ever existed :D
Awesome...keep writing:)

Metallica bhakt! said...

I remember licking on its red part and then putting it on as lipstick!! they reminded me of fond childhood memories and how I used to show off while the cigarette was in my mouth!
They do make them even now! Thanks for reminding about them!

Happy cook said...

In the shop varkey's in Kochin you still sometimes get thos sugar cigarettes.
Most of the people in my moms place call her Mommy too.
Even ppl who are as old as her :-)

Nithya said...

@mo0nlight, Ralph, Ravali, KS, thank you so much. I will definitely put more fight to try find them again :)

@Neeta, thank you :)

@Metallica bhakt, strangely, I never thought of using them as lipstick. The effect of growing up with a very butch elder brother, I suppose :) But now you're giving me ideas... Thanks for visiting.

Nithya said...

@Happy cook, thank you ever so much for visiting. I have pretensions to cooking myself and your blog is a constant inspiration to me :) I'm honoured :)

If I ever visit Cochin, I shall smoke sugar cigarettes from Varkey's and think of you.