Pop Went the Popsicle

29 Apr
Pop Went the Popsicle

The thing that shocked me the most about moving to America was when my friends would turn on the kitchen tap, fill a glass, and drink it. Water in our house was directly channeled through a filtration system before it was boiled to kingdom come, cooled, poured into sterilized bottles and stashed in the fridge. A separate batch was poured boiling hot into a thermos flask for my mother who insists on boiling her insides irrespective of the weather.

My greatest rebellion, the way I see it, was when I went to camp and drank my fill from a nearby tap like all the other care for nobodies around me, against the strict instructions of my parents. Of course, the Gods immediately felled sinful me with a mighty bout of flu and I landed in the hospital. But by then camp was over and I had other things to worry about like that perennial gift of camps everywhere: lice.

[Yes, my life is exactly that lame. Sorry.]

My very first memory of hospitals is from when I was barely four – I pigged out on contraband popcorn and my stomach rebelled. The resultant projectile vomiting was unpleasant but what followed was worse. Apparently the only way to treat a four year old with popcorn poisoning in 80s South India is to shove all sorts of tubes down her nose and stick her with IVs. Personally, I think the doctor must have been pissed coz he got dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and was trying to scare my parents into keeping a beadier eye on me.

If he’d been trying to warn me off popcorn, he definitely didn’t succeed. But hoo boy, did he teach my mother about the evils of popcorn. To this day I can barely munch a single kernel in her presence before she starts making noises about how its going to land me in the hospital.

The only good thing that came out of the whole experience is that my dad bribed me into staying still and convinced me that this was a Fun Thing for us to do as a family by buying me bucketloads of popsicles. The kind that come in a plastic tube and are probably filled with ice from the morgue? Or as I like to call it – the best kind. Raspberry and orange were my favorites. Of course, they were also the only flavors he ever bought me (or were available for that matter) but I loved them all the same.

The raspberry was a dark magenta and tasted like cough syrup. I’ve never understood why raspberry is such a hot flavor in India – I don’t think I ever saw it in its natural state until I left the country. Strawberries make so much more sense. But there it is, in everything from ice cream to jello. Is it some kind of colonial hangover?

The orange was a virulent shade of neon and was basically like sucking on a mild, iced lemon. You know how Rasna made the orange taste so much more orange-y than an actual orange could ever be? This made the orange taste less orange-y than the most withered, water-logged orange could ever be. And yet! So delicious!

The secret ingredient was obviously some cancer-causing chemical engineered to turn to children into mindless slaves. Or maybe dead people. Who knows! I can’t find them on the market these days. They’re probably banned.

Which was the bad news my father brought me that day as I lay on my hospital bed, eagerly awaiting the by-now de rigeur bribe of popsicles. Oh, the things those little goodies have convinced me to do – let them stick needles in my arm, tubes down my nose, push me into claustrophobic scanners that resemble coffins… No more.

I looked at the rectangular thing in my hand. “What is this?”

“It’s an ice cream bar,” my father said, refusing to look me in the eye.

I unwrapped it. “It’s an ice lolly.”

Now I’m not philosophically opposed to the idea of a ice on a stick but the whole point of the hospital experience was to suck it out of a plastic tube. Didn’t he know anything?

“Why don’t you eat it?” he asked, already hovering at the door.

“Where is my popsicle?”

“EAT WHATEVER YOU LIKE, YOU STUPID CHILD!” he yelled preemptively and dashed out the door.

I looked at my mother, laughing hysterically on the couch.

“Oh baby,” she said, patting me consolingly. “They don’t sell those anymore. In fact, they tore down that shop from which you father used to buy them. And those are the only things they carry in the supermarket.”

And that is how I found out that my childhood was losted. Isniff.

[pic source]


Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Life, Personal


Tags: , , , , , ,

11 responses to “Pop Went the Popsicle

  1. Never Mind

    April 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    When you said popsicle, I kept imagining ice on a stick. For some reason, we referred to ice in a plastic tube as “pepsi”. So it would either be the 1 rupee pepsi or the 5 rupees pepsi (the soft drink), depending on how generous my parents were feeling.

  2. MP

    April 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Oh Boy!
    The 1 rupee “pepsi” – good ol’ days!!

  3. apu

    April 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    PEPSI! So glad other readers remember this too. I was wondering at Ams being so posh as to call it popsicles 🙂 Ooooh…these were my favourites…for birthday treats, the 50p ‘Pepsi’ and samosas were the ideal thing when you had like an entire class asking to be taken along….

  4. Gradwolf

    April 30, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Oh yes, 1 rupee pepsi cola after school was such fun!

    Great work on the picture!

  5. B o o.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:55 am

    I want pepsi!!!! *drools* I think it were called ice lollies or something in Bangalore.

  6. DewdropDream

    April 30, 2010 at 4:51 am


    I got a free popsicle the day the vendor saw me with my first rank badge. In fact, after he’d given me one … he called out to the other kids saying he’d give free popsicles to every kid that came first. Needless to say, badges were being borrowed left right and centre and I’ll be damned if every kid in the school hadn’t come first that day 😀 Although, the vendor did do business even after!

  7. M

    April 30, 2010 at 11:49 am

    We called the plastic-tube thingies ice-lollies…the ice-on-a-stick thing is “stick ice” (kuchchi ice)…Glad to see you kids enjoyed it too! 🙂

    BTW, is it just me? Tap water was never taboo in our homes – the filter is a very recent acquisition at my parents place and is mostly used only when NRI relatives visit…I think filters/bottled water became necessities in MDS way earlier than in B’lore…my only complaint about Delhi water was that it was very hard, so tasted metallic, but my grandmother always had a surahi with vetiver in it, so the water smelled wonderful and was cool and perfect for drinking.


  8. Amrita

    May 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    NM, MP, Apu, Boo – I didnt know they had a term for them! In our school, the only things they sold near the buses were fruit (sprinkled with masala), corn on the cob and peanuts. 😦 Is deprived. This was something magical that only my dad knew how to find for me as far as I knew. So he was bribing me with I rupee morgue ice? Hmmmmmmmmmm.

    Adithya – hee, subtle eh?

    3 D – hahahhaa! Con School! No good deed ever goes unpunished, I see.

    M – I don’t know but my dad’s very particular about his water. It could have been his OCD at work. I will say that nobody I knew was ever as picky about it as he was. And they still arent!

  9. Sue

    May 6, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Aww, poor babykins. I know where you get them near my house, come on over. In cola flavour too.

  10. sachita

    May 6, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I spotted them yesterday at supermarket – 10 for a $ or something and thought of you guys.

    i never liked it from the name pepsi which i thought amounted to cheating denying me a real fountain pepsi to the artificial flavor – i have hated artificial flavor long before i know the name organics so … but you kids have fun:)

  11. pitu

    May 14, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    OMG PEPSIS! I tasted them for the first time when I was a grand old 12 years of age! My cousins in India had been eating that stuff for ages but we’d never seen it in Nigeria. I remember the first time my aunt gave it to me while I was holidaying in Mumbai- it was contraband because my dad didn’t trust ‘junk food/ gaadi ka food/baahar ka pani/ stalls and most restos in India so my aunt told me it was ‘our secret’. (I LOVE my aunt!)

    OHHHHH SOO GOOD! And addictive! And awesome! I was really sad when I heard they don’t make it anymore. Depressing, man 😦 I swear if they ever stop making gola (tell me you have gola in Chennai and you love it?) I will gather a ragtag army and revolt!

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