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Marking territory

By Nickunj Malik - Nov 01,2017 - Last updated at Nov 02,2017

It is strange really, how certain sights, sounds and smells transport you right back to your childhood. Take the aroma of fresh fruits for instance, or the voice of a vegetable-seller calling out in the mornings (slightly nasal and sing-song) that has stayed unchanged over the years. Or even the appearance of a wobbly wooden trolley, in which the daily produce is wheeled.

When I see any of these, I find myself going into an immediate flashback mode, to the long summer days of my annual school break, when I was regularly ferried from my father’s house to my grandparents’ villa, by our enthusiastic mother. She felt that it was important for me to spend time with my innumerable cousins, (who were also similarly displaced from their original homes) in order to develop my strength of character and teach me to be generous. The result was that on top of being obliged to share everything with my two siblings, I had to also cope with further dividing all my earthly possessions with my whinging cousins too.

The treasure trove I had as a child was slightly different from what I put in my safety deposit vault now, but to me it was extremely valuable. What went into it were the following: dried flowers that had been carefully pressed inside textbooks, unusually shaped pebbles, sea-shells collected from my trips to the beach, scented erasers, multi-colour ballpoint pen, a box of chewing gum and so on. In all this, the one thing most precious to me was the packet of Chiclets. What is that you ask?

I do not know if this product is still around but back then, Chiclets was a brand of peppermint flavoured chewing gum. It came in a bright yellow rectangular package with a big red C sign but the bubble-gum was white in colour. I don’t think it had more than twelve pieces in each package and every single one was highly prized. So much so, that even the thought of being asked to distribute it around, gave me sleepless nights. 

My cousins were a raucous lot and also extremely melodramatic. Once, when I accidentally got a plastic ring stuck in my middle finger, they tried to pull it out by force. One after another tugged at it valiantly, which made the skin around the ring swell, and the situation worse. They then told me, quite ominously, that the only solution was to cut my finger off, but here I digress. 

So, while I used to guard my treasured hamper with my life, I noticed that my brothers were quite careless about theirs and nobody ever pinched anything from them. Soon they gave me an impromptu demonstration on the easiest was to protect valuables. 

My older sibling opened his packet of Chiclets and in full view of my scandalised cousins, licked each candy, before putting it back in the box. As we made vomiting sounds, he casually pretended to spit on some of them. After this, there was no way anyone would touch his possessions, even if they were presented on a platter.

“Did you ever adopt my tactics?” my brother asked me recently. 

“Which one?” I questioned.

“That noble way of marking territory,” he reminded me laughingly.

“By spitting on candies? Yuck!” I exclaimed.

“It worked beautifully,” my sibling reminisced.

“Not if mother got to know,” I responded. 

“Supposing I had told her?” I wondered aloud.

“She would be marking my cheeks,” he replied.

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Comments

Thanks JT for finally allowing me to read my favorite column and proving that I am after all not a robot. Nickunj hilarious read. All our childhood idiosyncrasies brought out so beautifully.

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