Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Loose change

For most people our age, the first of household responsibilities we take on is that of shopping. Not the kind of shopping we are familiar with these days, but the kind that includes the basic necessities of those days. The list mostly featured milk, bread and the occasional egg(s). It was not as if that list fulfilled every need to run the house. It was because the adults took care of the rest of the things. And of course, one couldn’t go wrong with a pack of milk.

My brother and I began our shopping adventures at a small shop across the road owned by a man named Vasu. We called him Vasu uncle. We considered shopping to be a sign of being a grown up and took great pride when entrusted with the responsibility without actually realizing that it was a chore. When mom handed us the money, it was as if the family depended on us. Being the elder brother in the family, I would always keep the money in my pocket. And hence more power, responsibility, pride and the whole package.

Those were the days when denominations under 50 paise were very much in existence. Invariably, by some freakish coincidence, after every one of our shopping stints there would be loose change. Because, when we went shopping with dad, there just wouldn’t be any loose change. Anyway, it was at this juncture that virtues like responsibility, dependability, integrity and their kin went flying out of the window. And in came those yellow and orange Ravalgaon candies.

We used to love those candies, my brother and I. They came wrapped in transparent plastic – in yellow, orange and red. The flavours were supposed to be lemon, orange and grape respectively. Simple and minimal white text took care of the branding. That was all they needed. The sight of the candies through their wrappers did the rest. I used to like the yellow and orange ones and would beg Vasu uncle for them. If there weren’t too many customers around, he’d fulfill my wish, although with a look of disdain and disapproval. When there was a crowd, he would just dip his hairy hand and pick out random candies. And while they were still in the palm, he would count them flawlessly. The look of disdain however, remained a constant.

Being a big brother had its advantages. No, I am not referring to those whacks on my bum I received for those childhood crimes my little brother caused. Nor am I referring to the smaller piece of cake I had to be happy with because my brother was younger. I am talking about choice. As long as I was outside the premises of my house, it was my world. No dad. No mom. No maid (yeah, even she used to punish me). I was the king. People (in this case, just my brother) lived by my rules and mine alone. And by the powers endorsed upon me by me, I would always choose the yellows and the oranges. My brother would have to do with the reds. This went on for the best part of our childhood.

Then things started to change. We grew up. The shopping patterns changed. We were introduced to an unhealthy habit called ‘saving money’. 50 paise coins vanished. I started working. Milk became cigarettes. Bread became cigarettes too. The candies stopped.

Two decades had passed when I walked up to this tiny shop next to my office for my regular quota of cigarettes. I always carried the exact change – Rs. 45. And Surprise! The cigarette prices had been hiked again, this time to a very change-friendly Rs. 48. With a shake of my head, I took out a Rs. 50 note and handed it out to the shopkeeper. He gave me my pack, fiddled around his drawer for a while and shut it in frustration. He reached out for a plastic jar in a corner, looked at me apologetically and said, “Sorry sir, I don’t have change.” I nodded. He then proceeded and handed me four candies. They were wrapped in transparent plastic with ‘Ravalgaon’ written on them - in that same simple white text.


Prathima said...

Nice post. Reminded me of my childhood and a grocery store near our house.

Soorya said...

Ravalgaon.. It has been a few years since I was hunting for the name of those candies-in-yellow-orange-red-color-wrapped-in-transparent-wrapper-with-white-text-on-it :-D
I never saw it in any shops for years and wondered what happened to them!!
I think its made a come back this year! Found it in a bowl in a restaurant and again, in a Honda showroom when we went there.
Needless to say,I promptly emptied the bowl right-away :-)
Those candies are to die for... !
Great post and the pic is very very very tempting now!!!!

phoenikhs said...

@Prathima - Everyone has memories of a childhood grocery store, don't they? :D

phoenikhs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
phoenikhs said...

@Soorya - For me, it is always just a few steps away. :D

greatbunny said...

You are really witty! Thought you might enjoy my latest post from earlier today:- All Hail The "Ty-Agers"!!!!


Jigyasa said...

Ravalgon.....I loved it too. And besides that, this post reminded me about me being the elder one....and carrying the onus of it on my doing the l'll things like smaller piece of cake, helping her in homework even if I am done with mine n its my time to play etc etc...

Really Good One!

phoenikhs said...

@Jigyasa - Thanks :)

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