The Talkative Man speaks
<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Thursday, May 17, 2007
  Anything but Big Fun : bubblegum
Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker,
Turn them out knaves, all three

Thus goes the nursery rhyme, which concludes with the emphatic message that rascals should not be suffered gladly. The message led me into a train of unrelated thoughts - what segments of our people or institutions would easily pass for the knaves in that rhyme?

Talking about people, politicians, policemen and bank employees(but for a select few) would easily top the list. What about institutions? Doordarshan, the nasty dinosaur might win the contest hands down. But then a separate post is surely necessary to list out DD's shenanigans of the past. An unlikely segment in the growing-up days that popped out of the blue were the contestwallahs - the kind that insert posers/puzzles with an entry form in their products.

One of the very first contests that came to mind was an offer by NP Bubblegum circa 1984. Now this was before the days of Big Fun, which came with a bang in 1985 and promptly swept the market. NP was more of a toffee manufacturer I think who expanded into bubblegum. Around the 1982-83 phase, the standard offering for kids was the ubiquitous 10 paise Nutrine toffee, in the green wrapper. Higher up in the pecking order was the 20 paise bubblegum, with the 35 paise Cadbury's Eclairs occupying the top position, being the rare buy.

NP's 20 paise bubblegum came wrapped in a white wrapper with black spots. To be precise, it was a pink flat piece of stone, which required substantial mastication to produce the first bubble! Kids would launch into a furious grinding operation immediately after purchase, to set the stage for bubble-blowing. More often than not, the exercise left the effect of a Mike Tyson uppercut on your jaws. And if you were to run around or play while simultaneously trying to tame the ceramic-hard NP, it would knock the wind out of your sails in no time.

It was in the summer of '84 that one of the Amar Chitra Katha/Tinkle back-covers advertised the prize of a free comic for sending 30 gum wrappers of NP. The contest became the rage among the colony kids and for good reasons as well.

In those days when TV was a rarity, summer hols became a sore point with the parents of our locality, most of whose houses had both parents working. Even as the Annual Exams approached, restless kids pestered their parents for trips to relatives' homes. Doting grandparents added fuel to the flame. Some kids had relatives doing the nanny-work at home, while the older ones stayed at home and engaged themselves with whatever little game they could invent. It was at this point that a couple of children's libraries arrived in the locality. The monthly subscription was Rs.5 and for a paltry sum(like 25 paise) you could borrow as many comics as you liked and return them the next day. Some of the rich(but with no appetite for reading) kids got their parents to shell out the fiver and more. The strategy of the smarter ones(whose parents disliked seeing a bunch of comics spreadeagled all over the bed in the evening) was to befriend the spoilt brats, get access to the maal, devour every comic and then consolidate their relationship with the subscriber by narrating the stories at the end of day. My siblings and their friends in the locality became champion moochers who enjoyed a fresh haul of Archie, Disney, Indrajal, Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. Creaming the comics off "angel investors" was their speciality. Every afternoon, a little bunch would gather in our porch, deeply engrossed in reading or atleast padam-paarthufying. Illiterates like me hung around in vain hoping for a story telling session to start :(

Back to the contest: the promise of a free comic thrilled us no end. It was after all something you can repeatedly savour, without bothering to return it to the owner at the end of the day. With no time constraints, you could re-live the pages for the nth time at night as well. We launched into a massive wrapper-collection operation keeping the deadline in mind. The importance of purchasing NP bubblegum was conveyed in clear terms to magnanimous uncles/aunts. The collectors diligently accumulated the 5 and 10 paise coins, blowing it on an NP whenever they got a chance. For once, the 10 paise Nutrines were ignored. Everytime we bought an NP, stealthy looks were cast along the floor in the hope of finding a free wrapper carelessly discarded by some buyer!

In due course, we squirrelled together the 30 wrappers. Eager hands placed them in an envelope and dispatched it to the company, anxious to beat the deadline.

But alas! Weeks turned into months but nothing happened. A few months later, the postman brought a parcel. Finally, the reward for our pains had arrived. We ripped the wrapper and welcomed the Phantom comic inside with shrieks of delight!

Just one problem: the cover said Part Two. An enthusiast blazed promptly through the comic: it was a punchfest, there were scenes of men flying to the Phantom's punches, followed by a close-up of the imprint of his ring on the villains' jaw - a "Jungle proverb" dedicated to the 'Ghost who walks' added for special effect. The last page informed us that the story would be concluded in Part Three! So in effect, we had no idea why Phantom was on that spectacular punching-spree and no way of knowing if all those punches were really worth it in the end.

So that was the bottomline: a bunch of small kids had bust their humps to accumulate 30 wrappers and in return, the NP honchos had sent them Part Two of a Three part comic. That's something even the sadists on Doordarshan's payroll would have been hardpressed to emulate!

What it also meant was elsewhere in India, some kid must have got the Part 1 and another would have got merely the climax to that adventure!

But the burnt children didn't dread fire though. Big Fun arrived in 1985. It joined the contest bandwagon releasing a picture of a Disney character in every stick. The deal was to collect a certain number of characters who had a star emblazoned at the bottom. This was completely probabilistic and only the regular chewers had any chance of matching up to the requirements. By then, TVs were worming their way into most middle class homes, cricket fever was on with India due to host the 1987 World Cup. Big Fun cashed in on the interest and started releasing the pic of a cricketer, his star value translated into runs and wickets. Now the deal was to collect 120 runs and 10 wickets, to be exchanged for a mini-book with cricketer photos. Seeing my frenzied efforts at raking up the runs, Amma finally took me to a stationary store owned by her friend and got me a free copy of the prize. It was too pathetic a deal for all the trouble as by then we had a decent collection of sports literature at home. If I remember right, Big Fun rascals unabashedly bumped the price from 30 to 50 paise soon after! I guess I lost interests in chocolate/gum contests after that. Pretty soon, the glamour of bubblegum wore off.

Now though, I just cannot stand anyone around me giving his jaws a workout with gum. In fact, I've had absolutely no problems with smokers, I've actually cultivated the notion that smokers are generous guys since they often have to set money to the torch. Most of the smokers I have come in contact with have been extremely friendly and broad-minded, as opposed to some extremely stingy, self-centered and egocentric teetotallers. But grinding gum and other maattu-business is a definite no-no.

Research seems to have proven that chewing gum helps people concentrate and improves memory. I am dismayed by the findings. However for now, I will stick to my prejudice against gum-chewers.

Vivian Richards and Michael Jordan are excluded.
[Pic courtesy:]

ah ha TTM,

We now know how you developed the art of story telling.

Cannot agree more with what you say about gums helping memory. Late President Jonhson for one said Gerald Ford could not chew gum and fa*t at the same time. How could it then improve a man's memory if he had one? All chewing gum and no bubble makes jack a very dull boy!
I was going to mention Viv Richards and then read the last line. Can't picture that face without that jaw movement.
Peopl who chew gum come across as wannabe-cool-dudes to me.

It seems the chewing gum was originally made out of latex from the sapodilla tree cultivated in India, Sri Lanka etc. I have tasted the sapodilla fruit. It’s delicious. The wood is use for timber. Remember reading somewhere that bubble gum has been produced even out of the bread fruit tree.
Dear TTM,

Another captivating narrative from you. I strongly feel that you would enjoy the movie A Christmas Story. This movie is about a boy growing up in Mid-west US. There is an episode in this where he is trying to follow the orders of the secret service members of the Ovaltine drinkers and finally after days of listening to their program on weekends, all the decipeher is a message that reads "Drink your ovaltine every day". Try to watch this movie. It is one of my favourite movies and it is shown for 24 hours on christmas day on USA channel and I have been seeing it atleast once on this day for the past 7 years since I came to know of this movie.

With Regards
Do you remember the "flickers" (or was it "flipper") book?
Hahaha..That was damn hilarious :P
There was a brand called Fixy-Foxy released in 1985 which was excellent for instant bubbles with minimum grinding :-)

Someday I might give a chewer an advance slap for discarding gum on the underside of tables :-)
I could never bring myself to taste an unfamiliar fruit :)

ah..I have a great aversion for any american movie...nevertheless I will definitely check out this reco as well as the one on dogs. New computer so little adamant that my next DVD should be on Linux only but too scared to do the install :)
what was the book about? adhuvum Contest prize ah?

You won't imagine how much dignity we lost in kuppai-porukkufying :( :( Ha, you weren't even born then, lucky generation indeed! :-)
I tried and tried but never managed to learn to blow bubbles! So, 'chee, chee indha chooingum pulikkum'!!

And I think I became a packrat b'cos of these wrapper collection contests! Just the day after my mother throws out the Boost/Maltova refill pack cover, a send 'n' wrapper contest would get announced!

I read your piece once again and it is fascinating to read. I like your phrase "maattu business"

Even in my salad days I was not into blowing bubbles but it is interesting all the same.

As for the unfamiliar fruit it is worth trying. It is not forbidden, nor will you find it forbidding.
ah those days! Even though I never had a record of drinking away the jar of Horlicks/Boost/Bournvita/Maltova being a coffee addict, used to pester parents to buy them just for the contest. The dry contents eventually became an evening snack - mixed with sugar!!
I dislike fruit other than apple/banana/raisins, given my lazy habit of reading(cash receipts/telephone directory ads in the worst case!) while eating, anything that dribbles down as a gooey mess is too inconvenient :(
Damn you Big fun. Made me a pauper by making me collect Batman comic strips and paste them and send them and received nothing
Chewing gum certainy helps concentration, particularly while reading. Darling, an Australian gum chewing opener, was hit by a bouncer, and in the impact, swallowed the chewing gum, which stuck in his windpipe and unfortunately died in the process.

During our time, Tamilvanan's 'Kalkandhu' was the craze and his Sankarlal was as tall a personality, as the Big B is in India today. Ambulimama, was for the lesser mortals and we were considered as too young to graduate to 'Kumudam'.

Mahadevan's comments reminds me somewhat hazily of "karuppu kannadi" and Sankarlar's adventures. Kumudam, kalkandu, ambulimama, kalki, anantha vikatan, thamarai, there were many more I cannot recall. They were eagerly awaited every week. But that was another time.

Talking about chewing gum, coincidentally enough I had through my door yesterday a sample of four items including chewing gum which some marketing company had sent.
bayangara yaanai buddhi!
I had forgotten about those days. I think the first time I chewed gum was in II std. I remember scraping the gum off my lips and cheeks and chin. After that, I moved on to chiclets/gum balls. But I do (vaguely) remember the big fun craze. Wasn't there something about collecting fanta or maaza bottle caps also?
Big Fun was certainly Big Scam. The makers were as tacky as the product they made. But hey, the pink Big Fun was cool :-)

MD Saar,
Darling survived the incident. He was one of the first Kannaadi cricketers I saw. How come you missed Thuppariyum Sambu, the icon of your generation??
what a good thing I didnt ask you yesterday if you knew tamil!! Big embarrassment saved ;-)

Chiclets was nice but I didnt like the peppermint taste. I think Fanta and Coke were banned in 70s by George F and brought back by Rajan Pillai in 93. Mazaa only reminds me of Jalal Agha transforming the mango into that bottle, never really purchased. My area was Torino domain!
Goldspot! That was it! I remember the bottling plant in arumbakkam and that big bottle outside that plant. The Zing thing!

Thu Sambu was one of my faves too! I bought a collection on my recent trip and loved reading it again.

I do know Tamil but I hardly get a chance to read.

Wasn't there a detecive Sudhakar?
NP Bubblegum - there you go ttm stirring up some old memories again. I loved the smell of NP buuble gum, though I was not too good at blowing bubbles. There were some nasty buggers in class who would leave it stuck under the bench in school since they didn't want their parents to catch them. They would buy it near the school and chew the whole day except during lunch. At one point it reached a cult like frenzy in my school and was banned. But it was in the UK I discovered that we were nowhere gum usage wise - the town I lived in had a special kind of vehicle that would go over the main sections of downtown cleaning gum - Yup, a Gum cleaning vandi.
"Every afternoon, a little bunch would gather in our porch, deeply engrossed in reading or atleast padam-paarthufying. Illiterates like me hung around in vain hoping for a story telling session to start :( "
TTM.....:):)...That is one of the reasons why I started in to the story telling mode...If nobody is telling you one, you start telling it yourself.

I remember collecting 25 wrappers of Lacto King only to get a board game of paramampadam types..and Paramapadam was more interesting actually.
(The) talkative man on 'mauna viradham', huh?

BTW, there used to be an Ad for NP Minty(was it a candy?)where a girl's pony-tail swinging up and down used to be so awesome to us then!
gosh, a month already?!?

munimma, the Goldspot ad used to come in Crazy Mohan dramas. Go here:

rh, no idea, was not a regular reader :(
a gum collecting vandi?? Guess we shudn't feel that ashamed about our paan-spitting habit.. :)

Lacto King was a really good one. It broke the monotony of Eclairs as the standard birthday mittaai :)
orey this side, that side odings :(
good to see viradham instead of 'virudham'!

Dropped by just to say hi!!
I just stumbled on your blog while i googled for NP minty.Was thrilled to read this post.Brought back pleasant memories of my childhood....

@Me too
Yes NP Minty was a candy and it was all minty !! Was my favourite when i was about 5 years old....
I was thinking about Big Fun and the cricket fever. I think I collected it around 1985 itself though...Anyway I had googled for big fun bubblegum and found your blog...thanks for writing this...
Since your talking bubblegum and contests, this is probably a great place to talk about the greatest bubblegum contest of all.

If your interested in big bubbles, check out The BUBBLEGUM WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP where the biggest bubbles ever have been blown. If you can blow big bubbles, this just might be your chance to win the world championship of bubble blowing!

Bobby "BOOM BOOM" Bickerson

Check us out at
Oh wow, this got every one going - fascinating input mixed with a good read.
I must say you have a way with words.I hereby award you with the title of "wordsmith"

I stumbled over this piece of artistry while surfing for the lost brands of chicklets and np bubble gum.

You have made me relive those memories close to my heart.

Wish this thread and such lively people last forever.

Shailesh Mehta
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Previous Posts

Davis Cup semifinal 1987
Sai Paranjpe's Chashme Baddoor
Director Bharathan's Pranaamam
Anything but Big Fun : bubblegum
Railway Journeys - II
A Hyperactive spirit
Ek Duje Ke Liye
Looking back on Amritraj vs Jaite
Freak Encounters - I
An unlikely friendship short-lived
Railway journeys - I
Michael Jordan the greatest:The Flu Game
History at Capetown?
Images from Malgudi Days(DVD)
Found after a 17 year search!
Champions Trophy deja vu
Deepavali song
Heard in passing
Phil Tufnell fielding school
Indian cricket since its embryonic days
Journalism's Joan of Arc
Stills from Idhaya Thamarai/Aur Ek Prem Kahani
The World of Amar Chitra Katha
..and I saw Carl Lewis last weekend!
Two memorable Calypso hits
The sensational triumph in the '83 World Cup
Doordarshan and Frustration!!!
Date with a chennai girl!
Mayhem in the morning
Dream Teams: India XI vs World XI
How Dad's work
Pelting his way into the record books!
Relentless march of time
Close encounters of the Desi Kind
Thandaa paani!
Keep going
Indian Male yuppie: Boy->Man->Gentleman
Hamlet revisited
Rediff is just another TOI
Malgudi Days on DVD
TN Cricket - I : Early heroes
Bala, Bharatan and Guha
Warne does the trick once again
Remembering PV
A rare pic: Aandavans of Alwarpet
Random jottings on friendship
A gutsy analyst
Rarest among Jewels
Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam(2005)
The Terrorist(1997)
Holiday plans
Those small pleasures
Stalwart Narrator


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