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.