What do you do when you know that global warming could target one of the sweetest solutions you have always counted on — that chocolate (or the cocoa plant) is at a risk of extinction in a few decades? I decided to drown my melancholy in an entire bar of chocolate that I realised at the other side of my criminally-calorific break must have been saved up by one of my children. Luckily, the brain had me covered with the build-up of the goodness of endorphins and serotonin that magically transformed my guilt and melancholy into an inexplicable feeling of warmth and goodness — albeit temporarily.
The word ‘chocolate’ itself feels like an invitation to joy, happiness and a reason to smile, unlike words like ‘eggplant’ that causes a certain adult and a child in my household to try hard to keep up a straight face and suffer from a sudden onset of ‘loss of appetite’ while the other child — who is still on the road to learning the tricks of the trade — is seen to scream her disapproval.
Chocolate comes wrapped in the pleasures of delicious moments that trigger sweet childhood memories.
Being the Five-Star and Dairy Milk generation of kids, my cousins and I willingly shared our clothes and sometimes even our homework but fought tooth and nail for a fair share of the rare chocolate treat that was painstakingly divided to the last millimetre. On the bright side, it was during these rare moments that we put every apparatus in our mathematical instrument box and our math skills to good use. Summer vacations meant freedom from school work and hovering in stealth mode near my aunt’s refrigerator trying to get our hands inside the colourful tins of chocolate that it treasured — the wrappers of which were saved away between the pages of our notebooks where both its ‘chocolatey’ scent and memory lingered on for days while the empty tin found its way into Mother’s or one of my aunts’ kitchen shelves where it continued to hold delicious wonders that left us craving even after our stomachs refused to take any more.
These tins made their way into my uncle’s wonder suitcase — the ceremonious opening of which stirred a flurry of excitement — from a land across the seas where the adults in the family presumed that gold grew on date palms while we children ascertained that it was bars of chocolate that grew on them. But since my arrival in the UAE on a hot summer afternoon and post a visit to the supermarket, it became evident that only dates grew on date palms and chocolates occupied huge racks in supermarkets and came with a price tag attached.
Chocolate has played a big role in sweetening my childhood days and the moments that follow a meal even on this day that the thought of its extinction is very depressing. But we need not start filling our freezers with chocolate just yet as Mars is planning to do something about it.
By Mars, I mean the company Mars and not the red planet that I once had hoped to visit when it was rumoured that the Titanic star was planning on joining the mission but gave up my ambitions when I overheard Sid and the husband engaged in a heated discussion about the fast foods that they would enjoy in my absence. The idea of my family enjoying delicious treats (and chocolate) while I floated about in an uncomfortable space suit with an Earthly superstar suddenly seemed less glamorous.
Along with chocolate are coffee, potatoes, apples among many others in the global food chain that are found to be at a risk of extinction. While Mars is working on using scientific methodologies like the gene-editing technology to aid in developing plants that will be able to survive in the expected conditions, we have one more ‘sweet’ reason to do our bit in saving our home from the devastating effects of global warming.
As for me, the gnawing grief is making a comeback with the effect of the ‘happy chemicals’ waning. Now if you will excuse me, I need to grab another bar.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.