"Yaar sun, ismein toh namak ka packet hi nahin hai!" one of my friends said.
Deafening silence for a minute.
All of us looked shell-shocked as the friend held the flimsy aam papad in his hand. This couldn't be happening.
Now had it been the sweet orange aam papad, none of us would've bothered. Because that one had a sweet taste of its own.
But this one was the black aam papad. The sweet and sour one.
And eating black aam papad without namak was sacrilege. Black aam papad and namak went hand in hand.
Like Jai and Veeru, or Maggi and Tastemaker, or Munnabhai and Circuit.
However this packet was devoid of its faithful companion.
Buying a new packet was an absolute necessity.
"Uncle doosra packet de dijiye. Iss waale mein namak ka packet nahin tha," we all said in unison while walking up to the shop.
The shopkeeper gave us all a skeptical look. Clearly, he didn't believe us. And then grudgingly went inside the store.
"Yeh lo," he said dismissively handing us a packet.
"Uncle woh doosra walaa de dijiye na. Kaale namak waala," one of my friends said.
"Woh ₹5 ka hai," the shopkeeper shot. "Lao ₹3 aur do".
"Nahin theek hai uncle, aap yahi waala de dijiye," we all said since none of us had the princely sum of ₹3.
You know what happiness tastes like? Sweet, sour and a little salty. At least back then it did.
For as long as I can remember, aam papad was the Mithun of candies. It had a huge fan following and yet, it couldn't attain certifiable super stardom like its contemporaries, Mango Bite and Pan Pasand.
However, that shouldn't take away from the fact that it formed an indispensable part of our childhood. Unwrapping that sweet and sticky concoction made from mango and sugar, and then carefully putting salt on it used to be the biggest thrill ever.
Growing up, there were essentially two types of aam papads. The black one and the orange one. And each of them had a huge following of their own.
The orange one felt more like eating a candy. Its succulent, sweet texture tasted a lot like eating a mango. And there was no need for preparation.
But I was more fond of the black aam papad. For the black aam papad had a distinct flavour of its own. Add to that a coarse texture that gave you the promise of a sour and tangy ride the moment you touched it. Remember how you start salivating a little the moment you think of something sour like a lemon or gooseberry?
Well, same was the case with this aam papad as well.
A lot of candies tried to replicate aam papad's formula. Chewing gums like Center Shock thought that putting a sour filling in the chewing gum would do the trick.
However, none could replicate the undercurrent of success that aam papad had enjoyed.
If you haven't tried it, trust me, you're denying yourself one of the biggest and the simplest pleasures of life. Do your taste buds a favour and buy a packet today.