Mr Singh’s Pick and Mix
When I was five years old, the trip to Mr. Singh’s corner shop was the highlight of my week. I’d charge through the rain, kicking up coppery piles of leaves, cross the road by our estate, and finally I’d see the bright lights twinkling from the treasure trove hidden in the concrete shopping plaza. Cheerful good afternoons exchanged, it was straight to business: the sweet counter, crumpled money in hand. There were chocolate buttons older than my second-hand shoes, tangy fruit chews, as much as I could cram in a paper bag. The weekly ritual brought colour to my grey school days.
I never found out what Mr. Singh was really called. Some children had other names for him. But he always gave me extra sweets when I said I told my friends all about his shop. Judging by his bright smile, he didn’t seem to mind his new identity.
Drawing my memory map reminded me of the cluster of shops near our estate. They were grim, run-down places, and the proprietors had their fair share of abuse from older kids. I remember being told the corner shop owner was a ‘Mr. Singh’, but years later I discovered my parents secretly agreed to use the name, so I wouldn’t use the unsavoury terms some others did. It made me think about how simple others seem in a child’s eyes. Remembering the trips to Mr Singh’s shop also made me nostalgic for the good old days of cheap bags of pick-and-mix!