The nineties were a time when products from a ‘phoren’ country were seen as your ticket to fame. You would eagerly wait for a distant relative to arrive from an even more distant land and gift you something – chocolates with fancy wrappers, pencils with cartoons that weren’t familiar to you, an unusual toothbrush with a transparent handle. Soaps, keychains, talcum powder, socks, handkerchief, hairband - anything would work as long as it came from a foreign land.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to show-off my prized possessions to cousins and class-mates. The latter was trickier. Ma would insist I keep these things for special occasions only, not take them to school; there was always a fear of misplacing them. So they sat, beautifully arranged in a little drawer, one that I kept locked all the time. Every once in a while, I would open the drawer to absorb the sights and smells of a country I had never visited, but wished to someday. It would brighten up any dreary day, romancing the mind with the promise of an unknown adventure.
Two decades later, I see every international label in my city. Every fancy store round the corner has something ‘imported’ to offer. Still, it’s that little drawer that holds a very special place for me. It is the number of ‘likes’ I collected over years. It is the innocence of a time I ache to go back to. It is the romance of firsts, the alchemy of which can never be recreated.