The Best Chocolate I Have Ever Tasted
A daughter remembers the sweet treats of her childhood and the bonds forged over these treasures
Mom had a strange hobby—she collected chocolate wrappers through the year. I don’t know about you, but our birthdays were celebrated in school with a simple ritual—we wore new ‘colour dresses’, and as everyone wished you and fawned over you as the birthday girl, you handed out sweets to them. Every time, we returned from school bearing chocolates handed out by our classmates, Mom would patiently wait for us to unwrap them, so that she could gather up the foil packaging. Her eyes lit up as she lovingly and meticulously straightened them out and spread them flat between the pages of a fat dictionary, so they would look as good as new afterwards. My sister and I would hoard the wrappers all year long. We found they made her truly happy and in a strange way they were the best gifts we could give to our Mom.
My sister and I spent our childhoods in a small north-Indian town, where nature’s riches and the excellent school we attended more than made up for the glamour and glitz of a big city. We spent our time playing outdoor games—gully cricket and hide-and-seek were our favourites. Eating out was unheard of then; neither were expensive birthday parties. Special treats were reserved for Sundays, festivals and birthdays. We were not apologetic about our humble background, in any case the rich were never ostentatious about their wealth and affluence at the time.
It was a simple life, but one where we cared and looked out for each other at the same time. Mom worked hard at her job from morning till evening—but not before sending us off to school early with our not-so-heavy bags and our lunch boxes with simple, wholesome meals. Even though we went through tough times, providing my sister and I with the best possible education remained a big priority for our mother. Education before everything else was her mantra, even though it meant most of her hard-earned money was spent paying our school fees. We were always careful and frugal, but somehow we never felt a sense of deprivation in our lives.
Life for us moved at this easy, contented pace until, of course, our birthdays approached. Suddenly, when it drew near, there would be an air of expectation and tense excitement as the. Come D-day, we would cycle to school decked in spanking new clothes and shoes.
Honestly, I did not look forward to the gifts as much I did sharing Mom’s handmade chocolates, wrapped in shiny, colourful paper, with my classmates. Fifteen minutes before lunch, our teacher would allow us to distribute the candy. And out came the box from its hiding place under my books—and with a smile on my face and a happy heart, I would hand over two chocolates each to my friends. Then, I would rush out of the room just to savour the pleasure of hearing them open up the wrappers and savour the mouth-watering chocolates in pure delight. They would then ask me if there were a few more of these delicacies until I ran out of these treats entirely.
For years, Mom's gift-wrapped, handmade chocolates were a hit not only among us sisters but also the students to whom we gifted them. (Image used for representative purposes only)
Year after year, I followed the same ritual—and it pleased me to no end when each time, I heard my friends say that these chocolates were unlike any they had ever tasted. It was also immensely gratifying for my Mom who always asked, expectantly, on my return, “How were the chocolates?” No words of praise were spoken, but I used to inevitably give her a big hug—a heartfelt thank you from a very happy girl who felt really special on that day because of her mother’s efforts.
The years passed by, and my mother settled into a peaceful, retired life, while my sister and I married and had families and children of our own. Yet, the memory and delightful aroma of those unforgettable chocolates lingered on.
Not surprisingly, as our kids grew up, they too gifted chocolates to their friends at school on their birthdays. However, none of the chocolates I offered to my child could match what Mom always had for us. Until the year Mom visited us on my child’s birthday and brought along her famous chocolates.
Remembering my own childhood, I greedily dug in and devoured a number of them. Surprise, surprise—after so many years, I finally realized the secret of the chocolate’s sublime, evergreen taste: jaggery and peanuts cooked to perfection and filled with motherly affection and love in wrappers saved over months. Indeed, the best birthday treat I had ever tasted!