Wednesday, June 10, 2015

the childhood friend

As I slathered sinful amounts of Nutella on my toast, I simultaneously marvelled at this wonderful creation of chocolate for breakfast and the fact that soon I would be a mother and would have to give up on such ‘childish indulgences’. Mothers are supposed to be the ‘eat your greens’ and ‘finish all your veggies’ kind of person and what kind of role model would I be if I gave into my ‘basal instincts’ of hazelnut and creamy chocolate ?

We didn’t have Nutella while growing up, sure we had Kelloggs chocos to make up for it, and cold milk and chocos was by far my favourite activity on school mornings. I wondered if my childhood would have been any different if we had had Nutella in it? Hey they say hazelnuts are good for you, they have proteins and stuff, and chocolate has antioxidants, we probably never would have aged. And it’s not like we would have had it EVERYDAY .

I got to thinking of all the great things we did have in our childhood, that, well in hind sight, and maybe even back then we knew were not good for us. Those pepsicola popsicles, the flavoured ice in a handy plastic wrapped stick ; we tore off a bit of the plastic wrap and crunched the ice or just plain sucked at the wrapper . We knew that the water to make those popsicles may not be the ’boiled and filtered’ variety we had in our water bottles, and yet these popsicles were the best 2 rupees that we spent on our way back home on a hot afternoon. Even the plastic wrapper, who knows what sort of chemicals were in it, or where they were stored, we sucked at it with all our might willing the last of the orange flavoured icicle, but who knoiws what sort of back of a dirty lorry the popsicle had been?  It wasn’t like we had washed it or anything.

The candy floss, a major major cause  sugar rush, again who knows what kind of food colourant was used. The ice golas during summer holidays on the chowpatty, all the random, guavas, and cut cucumbers, we consumed on our annual train journey to the grandparents house, straight from the railway platforms of stations we didn’t even know existed.

Were the fruits washed? Was the washing water clean enough ? And how long had they been lying cut on his little portable cart before we joyously shoved money through the railings and grabbed at the guavas before the railway master blew his whistle?  Quick pack some of the vada pav, and a few of those samosas too, do you want chutney with your mirch bhajjis?

 I mean chutney is simply a few ‘maybe unwashed’ green chillies, with ‘raw possibly unwashed ‘ coriander and mint blended to a paste in what will most probably have some sort of gastro causing germs. But we ate right on.

I smiled at my childhood memories, a large part of them linked to glorious uncomplicated summer holidays. Sure we had those little paper soaps which mom diligently tore out of small pamphlet sort of thing. Then we took these paper things to the wash basin on the train and rubbed the paper under the tap water until a soapy substance which smelled like roses satisfied our mom that our hands were clean enough to eat with. Now we have hand rubs, much more convenient. 

And then my mind went to my memories of Maggi. I just stopped. Honestly I didn’t know what to think. There is just so much talk about the lead and the MSG and everyone has an opinion and frankly I didn’t know what to think.

It was like a childhood friend had been caught for fraud and put in prison. Sure we had grown up now, we didn’t see each other so much anymore, but I mean we had been friends. We had spent so many days post school, lounging in front of the telly watching FRIENDS on Tv. My brother and I we had some good memories of the guy growing up, and to see him behind bars, it just seemed odd. Not that I think he is innocent, or that he is guilty. I just don’t know. Would I go to the prison and ask him? maybe not. If he said he was innocent would I believe him? I don’t know, I would like to, but that’s not my job.

All us kids who were friends with him now get this taunt

“ I know he was no good, and still you kids hung out with him. “

“I told you to stay away from him now look where he is, and God knows what he must have done to you kids!”

some even ask “have you been in touch with him, met him recently?”

 I answer diffidently ,” no, not really. Well sometimes, not often though. Just a couple of busy weekday nights for dinner…”

Defensively I add,” he never harmed me, I mean I have all my fingers and toes right, and all my hair too. I became a doctor, didn’t I?”

“you mean to say you became a doctor because of him or inspite of him?” they retort.

“nothing” I add, “ I just … wanted to say he didn’t damage me physically or mentally you know, in all these years that we knew him…”

“that’s what you think! He has been eating away at you all these years. You guys are safe now that he is off the streets, atleast he will not harm your children, and you are trying to defend him!”

I try and explain that I am not defending anyone. I try to add that even though one culprit is off the streets it does not mean my children will be safe in the future, and I also wanted to add that I had had popsicles made of God-only –knows what water, I had eaten many times without washing my hands, I may have picked up my fallen chocolate off the floor and popped it in my mouth before anyone saw.
Did it mean I was Ok with lead, pesticide, heavy metals, and antibiotics in my food substances ? No! I want these off the streets as much as anyone.

I looked down at the jar of Nutella in my hand. As I put it down on the kitchen table, I wondered what sorts of dangers lay within. Sure I knew all that chocolate was not a good idea, sugar rush, diabetes, overweight , all sorts of lifestyle diseases. And let’s face it, anything that tasted that good, was definitely not healthy. But was it dangerous enough to take it off the streets. Would it be the next generations’ ‘childhood friend’ which got dragged away in chains while children grappled with the thought of their ‘friend’ behind bars?

I suddenly realised I had lost my appetite; maybe I would have an apple. Apples have all sorts of pesticides,and even growth hormones, my mind warned me... 

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