– Hrishikesh Bharali
Prologue: A small rubbery substance, rectangular or spherical in size, found in various colours, pink being the most common variety draped in a colourful (usually blue or red) packet that has that instant freshening effect once you put it into your mouth and you go on chewing, chk….chk…….chk…..
As I drive through my old memory lanes, I am quite surprised to find that I have been part of a special era-the “Chewing Gum” Generation. As odd and ludicrous as it might seem at first glance, actually I find it the same way now, but if you went with me to Sacred Heart School from class 5 to class 8, you would realize that I am not joking.
Chewing gums…they were ubiquitous. From the small local panwaala1 to the biggest stores in the town, gums had permeated everywhere. Even the under belly of the school-benches; where students used to stick them in case the teacher detected them and asked to open their mouths; or sometimes purely because the gum has lost its flavor and the pupil is too lazy to throw it in the dustbin.
Gums have also found tremendous appreciation in the “school prank culture”. When the teacher comes to the class, everyone rises to greet her. At that precise moment just take out the gum you had been chewing and stick it undetected on the seat of your intended victim. Now enjoy the fun. When he tries to stand up, he will have gum sticking to his pants! Sometimes you get the impression that it was his shit sticking to his pant. Enough to cause a red-face embarrassment for the victim especially when you’re studying in a co-ed and girls are jeering at you from the other row.
But sometimes it can be nasty too. As you walk across the school playground and after a while you feel that you can’t move your feet. So you turn your feet and on closer inspection you see a gum sticking to the shoe sole. It becomes really frustrating when you have to spend your next 5 minutes with a small stick and struggle to get rid of it.
And how can I forget the “tattoos” that came along with it as free goodie. In fact, you can call the “Chewing generation” as the “Tattoo Generation” because tattoos were very much a part of the whole gum culture. We wouldn’t have thought of buying “Big Babol” gums in horde, hadn’t it being for the fact that “WWE Superstar” tattoos were being offered as free goodies. The offer was too tempting to resist. The sales of “Big Babol” went to optimum levels during those days as there was a tremendous demand from the students. Peer pressure played its part well. Now who wouldn’t like to display the tattoo of “Undertaker” or a “John Cena” on their arms? Well for boys it was all part of the male chivalry. Whereas a few of them pasted it on the top cover of their text-books, I preferred to paste my collection on the pages of my rough copy. I was thrilled when I completed the entire collection!
Another brand which made an impression on this generation was “Loco Poco”. Funny as it might sound; the name was catchy though, which made it an instant hit. When the “Big Babol” tattoos got saturated, “Loco Poco” brought out its own range of tattoos based on unorthodox abstract motif. It was the rage for a few years. In addition,” Marbles” also introduced a similar offer in tandem with “Big Babol” albeit Marbles offered a bigger sized tattoo of your favorite WWE Superstar. But that also meant that the price was high L. So it didn’t receive the kind “ubiquitous tag” which “Big Babol” had acquired over time.
Chewing gums can be dangerous too. As I am aware of quite a few accidents involving small kids who tried to imitate the act of the small boy of blowing a big bubble that was shown in the “Big Babol” ad. Matters took such a turn that it was advised that young children shouldn’t be allowed to chew gums as it was considered highly risky.
On a concluding note, I would like to add that gums can also be an important accessory for a guy if he wants to put on that “super-dude” look….jeans, t-shirt with a jacket on, dark shades, spiky hair, wristbands and standing in-front of your new bike with a gum in your mouth waiting for your girl to come out from her tuition classes so that you can drop her home….It’s quite exhilarating!…can’t get better than this unless you have a Buggati Veyron to replace the bike…;)
- A small shop that sells betel nuts and betel leafs apart from tobacco stuffs and small stationery goods.
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