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A Chapter from The Adventures of a Bubblegum Boy

A Chapter from The Adventures of a Bubblegum Boy

Adventures of Candyland

 Another dream. Another prophecy to follow. Bob woke up, finding himself all alone in Candyland. He had no choice but to yell out “Is anybody there?” Bob was engulfed with fear and he eyes turned misty. He remembered mom and all her irritating commands, almost yearning for them now…After all, Bob was not the macho man he had thought himself to be. He eyes filled with tears at the thought of being alone… The tears were large and heavy and rolled down Bob’s chubby cheeks swiftly, falling on the waffle ground. Suddenly as if with the touch of her tear water, the candy trees shook, then the marshmallows, then the nutties on the path. Bob felt something move in his environment. He looked around.  Slowly the sound of chatter came in… he wondered who was around besides him. Then as he stared at the tree, it changed slowly till the face was in full form, the candies hanging from the branches began dancing with their active limbs. He glanced around at the marshmallow fields and they were swaying, some waving out their arms.  The chocolate stream too splashed its arms about, the candy floss clouds nodding their fluffy heads, smiling down on Bob. Where was Bob?

Certainly not alone. Candyland had come alive. And with it Bob’s will and excitement too. He rubbed his eyes till the last wink of sleep was off and got up to walk towards the pink dome although he was really tempted to walk over to the trees that had gummy bears, alive and kicking, jumping from branch to branch. But the remnants of fear kept him from heading towards them. Just as he began to walk through the animated candies, chewies and what-have-you, he felt something tugging at his ankle. He stopped and looked down to find a red gummy bear smiling up at him. Bob’s initial reaction was to shriek.

‘Ouch! What’s that?’ Bob flung the ‘thing’ away as far from him as possible. The gummy bear stood where he was, smiled.

“Nothing to be afraid, nothing to scream about!” The gummy bear spoke in English! This was all too much for Bob’s strangest fantasy to fathom. ‘You just spoke…err… who are you? And err… where am I?” The gummy bear perched himself comfortably and gestured Bob to sit a moment. Bob complied, as if begging for some clarity.

“My name is Glen…I am here to serve you. Hari has sent me…”

“Hari?? You mean the oak tree?”

Glen smiled “Yes. I have to escort you till the pink dome… the Bubbledom.”

Bob crinkled his nose in a quizzical fashion…“Bubbledom?”

“Yes. That pink thing you see there?”

“So what’s that? And why am I going there? I don’t even know…I just liked the look of it… so I was walking towards it…”

“Your liking was not random, my boy…you will see…”

“What? I don’t understand… when I came here… all was still, like stone… and now I am seeing live candies all over…”

“Your tears did the trick”

“What?”

Yes. There was an ancient spell on Candyland that was frozen timelessly and only a human tear could make us all come alive. And YOU did it! So we are all here to serve you…”

Bob looked at Glen and ignored his own momentary glorification, till he could full digest the twist of fate and the heroic moment for himself.

“Now come on, we have no time to spare. Bubbledom awaits you and trust me it is not as near as it looks.

Bob looked at Bubbledom and then at Glen who held out his gummy, sticky hand in a grand show of friendship. Bob held out his hand slowly and touched Glen, marvelling at the touch of a gummy bear- one that could talk, walk, smile and even guide him!

“Wow! Wait till I tell Sam and Janie!” Bob thought to himself. For now, his fears were cast aside as he was no longer all alone, he was no longer lost.

“Friends?” Glen asked the most obvious question. One that confirmed Bob’s farewell to fears.

Bob smiled and walked along with tiny Glen taking short, quick strides to keep pace with Bob who was now comfortable about being in Candyland. Even a tad excited. After all, he was no ordinary boy anymore. He had made a cold, dead Candyland come alive with just his tears. Tears that his mom always complained about… “See mom? I don’t cry for nothing!”, Bob congratulated himself on his latest self-discovery.

As they walked along, Bob’s compassion for little Glen gave way and he lifted him up so that Glen could perch comfortably on his back. And on they marched with gummy directions from Glen. Bob now looked around, inspecting his new surroundings. It’s amazing how different things seem with life injected into them. Maybe humans seemed that way too especially when they wore a dead-pan expression! Bob’s thoughts had suddenly grown up. He looked up at the clouds… they smiled too dropping some of the candy floss in Bob’s directions. Bob balanced himself with little Glen to catch hold of it.

“Eat it. It’s delicious.” Glen’s verdict was final. Bob looked up and smiled, waving in gratitude.

“But if I eat this, won’t the sky become emptier? There won’t be any clouds left!. It’s like eating them!”. Bob’s concern for the other was still imminent. Glen giggled at that, much to Bob’s ire.

“That’s the difference between being out there in your world and here in Candyland. Here we are blessed with eternal abundance.”

“What does that mean?”

Glen stretched out his arm, offering Bob.” Here, take a bite…”

“No no, I can’t. It’s ok…forget my question…”

“Don’t worry, just bite… I promise nothing will happen…”

Bob reluctantly bit Glen’s hand off. Just then, Glen hid his arm behind and egged Bob on to savour his arm.

Bob began to chew and relish the taste but he couldn’t wait to speak.” But what about…” Bob managed to let out his urgent query despite the mouthful (or rather handful!)

Glen smiled, held out his arm in front of him. Bob was shocked. His eyes dilated at the sight of Glen’s arm as it was, whole, gummy, and complete.

“What? I just bit that off!”

“See? What’s what I meant by eternal life!”

Bob was relieved of his cannibalistic guilt. He took a deep breath and looked around him…

“You mean all these…”

“Yes, all yours sir!”

Bob had just won a lottery bigger than any lottery ever, offered by any mall whatsoever! This was the blessing of ‘eternal candies!” What more could Bob ask for. Finally no whining before mom for ‘candies! “Bob had discovered his source, an eternal source. Rather the source had discovered him. He was ecstatic and he pranced around with Glen, joined by other folks who followed them like Pied Piper. Colourful eternities made a beeline for Bob. This was another time, another world, another life. Bob wondered whether he was dreaming or wake. He asked Glen to pinch him hard. Glen put in all his tiny might, aided by is peers till Bob yelled and begged them t stop “Ok ok, I am alive!”

As they walked on, they approached a field of striped trees… at least that’s what Bob

Could make of it. As they neared, Bob saw tall, multi-coloured striped things, as if walking on stilts. The kind he had seen in malls. Glen clarified.

“These are our striped beauties- The Strippeys. Haven’t you taste them?”

The striped beauties came close enough to break their own limbs and offer Bob. Bob’s wonderstruck exterior could barely hide his shocked insides that had seen all too much, too soon. He took a piece from the Strippeys and bit into them.

“Hmm…No question about the taste. They were Bob’s favourite. Bob thanked them. One of them lifted Bob up so he could view Candyland from a higher perspective. And what a perspective. The land stretched into varying levels with different contours and shapes from fields of marshmallows to chocolate trees with gummy bears, alongside flowing streams of milk and chocolate.

“They are called the giraffes of Candyland!”, Glen was quick to add. Bob stared around Candyland in awe- the kind he had never even dreamt of! He wondered if the mall was close by. Before Bob would get lost in his reverie, Glen held out instructions for the Strippeys.

“Ok boys, we have work ahead… Bob has to reach Bubbledom. So let him go…’

On hearing the word ‘Bubbledom’, the Strippeys instantly lowered Bob and held him close to the ground. Glen smiled “Thank you, boys..”. Glen pulled Bob away from his marvels and they continued their journey to the pink dome.

Bob had more questions now than ever.  His head reeled with legends, stories, fantasies, orchestrating a spectacular movie for him. Except he was the only viewer- the sole audience to this dance of unreal reality.

“So why did the Strippeys stop at the word Bubbledom?”  Bob was sharp enough to notice the change in stance. Glen tapped his shoulder to stop.

“I think you should know this, Bob… Bubbledom is the reason we all exist. Bubbles is the King of this land and he governs everything here. We are here to serve him to the best of our abilities. For if it weren’t for him we would all be in some mall or candy store, living lives in horrifying wait of murders! One bite is all it takes to end our lives! But King Bubbles handpicked us and brought us here to enjoy a life of eternity. No more bites. No more murders.

Bob rolled his eyes. He stopped and looked intrigued.

“Hmm… tell me more…”

“Well, that’s King Bubbles for you. He is our saviour, he is our God. He has already heard of what you have done for us with your large tears! Actually maybe he knew about it even before…well, let’s see there’s a lot to discover and know. You will at the right time. For now, let’s move on. We have a long way to go…”

“Bit… err., I have one question…Why am I going there?

“Well, why are you here? Don’t you want to know? That’s the answer only King Bubbles can give you.”

“Oh!”

Bob decided not to waste any more time. After all time was of the essence. Time, that reminded him. Bob looked at his wrist… he looked around, and then asked Glen with panic written all over him.

“By the way, I want to know what time it is…”

Glen laughed so loud that it echoed through Candyland sparking off a wave of laughter resounding through the land, almost like a chorus till the comic cacophony silenced itself to hear Bob’s plea that assumed desperate undertones.

“I want to know the time… is it day or night? …”

Glen smiled  “Bob, time doesn’t exist here. That’s the beauty of eternal lands..”

“You mean when I leave, I would have lost no time?”  “Yes, that’s right. “

“But I have spent time here…”

“Not the kind you are used to. You are having a timeless experience.”

“I don’t get it…”

“Well, let’s not worry about it. Time is on your side. I promise…”

Glen managed to allay Bob’s confusion over the most significant aspect of all existence: time!

The pink dome seemed far, far away. Bob walked on without complaint but when fatigue started catching up with him, he begged Glen to stop.

“I can walk no more… can we please take a break?”

“No you cannot! We have miles to go…”

“But my legs are killing me…”

“No problem, there’s a solution for everything!”

Glen clapped hard thrice. Bo looked around to see what would (if any miracle could) happen. Suddenly, Bob felt a weight beneath his feet. He looked down and shrieked

“What’s that?”

“Chocolate wheels for you sir!”

“Really? Wow? Can I just slide on them? What? How?

“No more walking right?” Glen urged Bob to move his legs forward. Bob complied and soon he was wheeling all the way with zero effort.

“I will surely like to take these along when I leave Candyland”, Bob thought to himself.

“Well, sure you can.” Glen had heard Bob’s mind.

Bob was a little embarrassed with his instant show of greed.

Bob and Glen wheeled their way through the curves, twists and peaks of Candyland. Bob never missed an opportunity to glance at his own chocolate wheels. The chocolate aroma of the wheels made Bob heady with his most favourite past-time. No mom, no dad, no meanie Janie or no Sam to stop him or report his chocolate escapades. Not that he didn’t miss them. He did, but not this part of them.

As Bob and Glen trotted happily with Glen acting as the tour guide for Bob, they suddenly slowed down. There was a large gulf that stood between them and the pink dome. Bob looked below; it was an abyss that looked scary. Glen tried to pacify Bob

“Oh that! Don’t worry; we will get through this pass.”

“How? I cannot jump, not even with these chocolate wheelers!”. Bob declared with an air of finality. After all, adventure didn’t mean fatality. Glen was patient with Bob’s near hysterics. He looked in the opposite direction and whistled. Bob stared at him with disbelief and confusion. Just then, a large army of long, extra long stick-like things started marching towards them from afar. Bob tried to discern who they were.

“No strangers… our good old Strippeys!”

Bob looked at them and a smile broke the uneasy tension that had gripped the air about Bob. He turned around fully now, ready in body and mind to welcome them with open arms (if only a metaphorical possibility!) The Strippeys, all colours pranced their way, making giant, confident strides as if on a mission.

“But how will hey help?” Bob looked at them and then the gulf. Glen smiled.

‘Wait till they get to work!” They Strippeys lifted Bob playfully, swaying him between their long lengths! Bob goggled, enjoyed every bit of mirth and attention. Glen quickly got down to business

“We need to cross, guys!” That was it. The Strippeys were at work. One of them commanded the entire operation, instructing the pairs, the singles, to form the unimaginable: a bridge. A real, goddamn bridge! Bob sat in a corner and gazed at the wonder of craftsmanship with no great engineers, no great machines… just the Strippeys with their Candyness! Bob didn’t have a doubt about their engineering prowess. He was stunned though. He wondered “I wish they were there when we ere stuck in the rain on the way to the mall! Who says candies lack intelligence!” At this moment, they assumed heroic proportions for Bob. Bob had that I-never-want-to-leave-here look on his face. Glen gave him a thumbs up. Bob was too mesmerized to respond. So he just sat and silently applauded the master engineers at work. The candy engineers. Wow. What a thought!

The Bridge was ready and Bob wished he had a camera to capture the beauty. All the heads of the Strippeys stuck out on either ends and they created a matrix with their gorgeous lengths. Bob and Glen had to walk over them. Bob was reluctant at first, and then he carefully removed his chocolate wheels and stepped on the grand bridge. Bob never felt more secure. He looked below to marvel at the gulf they were crossing, with the help of the magnanimous Strippeys. A true wonder of creation. That landed them safely over to the other side.

As soon as Bob and Glen crossed over, they looked back and the bridge was all gone. All they caught a glimpse of was the army dispersing off. That quick, that easy. More efficient that any army in the world. Bob stared at them from a distance, waving enthusiastically in gratitude. Glen pulled Bob over to continue their journey.

Bob looked ahead, yet he was not over the bridge. Not just yet. He carried it in his heart and promised himself he would tell the long tale to the other side of the world where he belonged. Glen pulled him over, to shake him from his reverie.

“Come on, we have a long way to go and many wonders yet to uncover…”

“What wonders?’

“Just come along and discover…”

Bob was intrigued further. Glen had managed the dangle the carrot or rather the candy. Bob really looked forward to the journey ahead. But as he stared into the distance, he realised that they were far away from the pink dome.

“That thing there, it seems so close and yet as you come closer it seems further away…”

“That’s the beauty “

Bob crinkled his nose

“Come, come, you will know soon. For now, enjoy the scenic beauty of Candyland… see there? The rain!”

Bob looked in the direction Glen pointed and saw a rain shower… but this was different, it seemed unlike water droplets that Bob was used to.

“What’s that? But that doesn’t look like water droplets.”

“It’s not water. But it is rain.”

Bob crinkled his nose once more. Life was getting more and more complex with new learnings at every bend.

“So you ready to get drenched?”

“Yes!” Bob had no idea what he was getting himself into. Well, he didn’t have the faintest idea of where he was and why he was in the first place. So a little more unknowing wouldn’t do much harm! Bob had made up his mind for adventure. And so far his journey had been sweet enough. No complaints at all. In fact Bob knew his friends would turn green the moment he told them of his wonders in Candyland. Even the mere fact of a ‘Candyland’ would be enough to send his friends in a tizzy. And tizzy was what Bob gloated over. At this moment, he would give anything to be the adventure –blessed boy, travelling on chocolate wheels. Wow. What destiny. What stroke of fortune.

Bob and Glen rushed to the rain shower patch. The closer they came to the scene of revelry, the bigger their eyes dilated. What they saw before them was no ordinary rain. In place of water droplets, these were translucent fruit cubes showering the place. Multi-coloured, delightful cubes, each emanating different shapes, almost like a prism. They reached the spot and Bob was too mesmerized to move. When Glen woke him up from his reverie, Bob stepped forward to be in the midst of rain.

“Come, come, and don’t be afraid. This is the sweetest rain ever.” Bob agreed with Glen as he soaked himself under the fruit cubes, falling in a free-fall, with gay abandon. Bob even opened his mouth to taste some. They were delicious. Soon the rhythm of the rain orchestrated itself to a dance and Bob and Glen moved to the beat. Bob looked around and it was as if time stood still.

“So who controls this rain?”

“It’s Bubbles. King Bubbles.”

After getting drenched enough, Bob and Glen lay flat on the ground, in total bliss. If there was any nirvana, it was this. “All those fools in the mall… this was real fun.” Bob thought smugly, forgetting for a moment that just a while ago, he was a part of the mall mania too! Glen hated to interrupt Bob’s monologue but he nudged him to move on.

“We still have a long way to go, Bob”

“Sure. But I hate to leave this place…”

“Come on… a bigger treat awaits you”

Bob and Glen bid farewell to the tiny bits of excitement that kept falling from above like drops of eternity from heaven. Bob looked back, glancing at the cubes of fantasy even after they had crossed a great distance away from the Rainland. Nor did his body completely exit Rainland  as Bob’s jean pockets were full, bursting at the seams with the multi-coloured cubes. In fact Bob felt weighed down by them. But he didn’t mind really. It was all worth the weight!

Glen looked at him and his heart wanted to laugh out loud but he controlled his desperate urge as it he didn’t want to risk annoying Bob highness. Yes that’s how he addressed him in his mind… after all his tears had brought Candyland alive. How could he not pay his debt of gratitude? Imagine hanging like dead wood from a tree! That was an existence Glen couldn’t imagine now that he had tasted real life. Glen’s trip down memory lane ended when he realised Bob wasn’t with him. He looked back, front side, left…where was Bob? Oh my God. The wonder boy was lost. Glen was answerable to King Bubbles. What would he say to the sovereign of the land.

Glen looked back at the path they had crossed and started backtracking his footsteps. All was not in vain. There were the rain cubes that had fallen on the track thanks to Bob’s gluttonous ways. Glen carefully followed their direction, one tiny step at a time. This wasn’t easy for Glen as he was overwhelmed with feelings of despair and fear writ all over his face. What if he never found Bob again? What if they all froze back into the cold death? What if King Bubbles persecuted him for negligence? What if…

Glen’s despair was endless as his mind sprung up the worst possibilities in lieu of the missing Bob. How would he ever get through this? He tried to silence his neurotic mind but without stopping his steps. Glen was focussed on the rain cubes that showed him the way… well at least some way. He followed one by one, almost entering into a dialogue with each one of them… “Tell me where is Bob?” and what luck, they responded. After all they had come alive too like the rest of Candyland!

“Here-this way, follow us…”

“But where did he disappear?”

“Not very far… you will find him. Such a lovely boy!” Glen could do without all the gushing right now. All he wanted was to find Bob.

After a few feet, a few cubic feet away, he finally found his destination: Bob. Lying flat on the ground, sleeping like an angel, a heavenly child. Glen hurried, his heart panting every little breath in his little being. As he reached Bob, he was careful not to wake him. He didn’t have the heart to wake him. Bob lay in peaceful slumber; under guess what- the shade of a gummy bear tree! Looked like all the gummy bears had just sung him lullaby- they all looked on with such loving adoration, they could put a mother to shame.

Bob breathed the sweet air of Candyland. Glen wondered what he dreamt of at that moment. Did he dream of his home back there, his mother, his family? Glen sat right before Bob’s agile nostrils and watched his body rise and fall with every little breath. Well, that wasn’t all; Bob even smiled with eyes closed. This was fascinating for Glen and all the gummy bears. They had never seen anything like this. So they all enjoyed the slumbered silence, much like Bob.

Glen was about to be seduced to sleep by the endearing comfort of the environment when Bob woke up, to find Glen staring at him with his translucent eyes. He looked guilty and before Glen could ask him anything, Bob offered explanation: “It’s just that I was tired… err… I couldn’t walk anymore..” Glen listened with patience and then smiled, much to Bob’s surprise. ‘You mean you are not wild with me?”

‘No I am not… just wish you had told me, we could have stopped…” Bob was a bit embarrassed now. He lost no time in promptly replying:

“You know, my mom would have probably cut me into a thousand pieces and who knows put me in the refrigerator.”

“No she wouldn’t. That’s what you feel…”

“I can bet on that!”

“Mothers can never do that. They just say that to scare babies and ‘mischievous’ children!”

Bob though about that for a second. Well, maybe Glen was right. After all, Mom also showered him with gifts and cookies every now and then. Glen decided to shift the focus back to their mission.

“I think we should leave, your highness, if you have rested enough…”

Bob let out a yawn but sent the second one back home when he sensed the urgency in Glen’s eyes. Did he ever think one day he would be staring deep into a gummy bear’s eyes? Probably not.

Bob sat up and stretched his arms, rubbed his eyes, making a perfectly entertaining and endearing moment and sight for the audience above him- the gummy bears who clapped in gay abandon as if to celebrate Bob’s waking up.

Bob thought for a moment: “Why couldn’t his family- mom, day, Sam and Janie clap like that every morning? Wow, wouldn’t that be lovely?” But all Bob ever got was a pat on his head; straight there without any warning or prior notice.  A loud, cruel bang. With a remote sensation of pain sometimes, in case Bob didn’t hear mom’s ‘morning warning’.  Bob looked sad. Maybe his fantasy would never be real.

He waved out and bowed before his gummy buddies, in deep appreciation for making him feel so special. Bob liked feeling special. Wish he could multiply those moments like his math sum.

End of fantasy. Glen pulled Bob away from whatever little might his fistful body could do muster. Bob allowed him. They both walked towards the path.

“Have we lost out on a lot of time?”

“That’s ok. King Bubbles is aware of everything!”

Bob looked quizzed but really didn’t want to delve deeper in his semi-awake state.

“This time, let’s take another route, so that we can make up for the lost time. Bob looked interested suddenly and his insides woke up.

“New way? “

“Yes. Just to make up for the lost time. You do want to get back home don’t you?”

Bob suddenly realised and wondered how long he had been away. He had no concept or sensation of time anymore.

“What’s the time? Err…I mean how long since I have been here? Err… I don’t know.”

“Like I told you, time doesn’t exist here. When you are finished with the mission here, it would probably be just one earth instant. That’s it.

“Are you serious? But how? What happened to time? Back home, everything revolves around time. My school, my play hours, even the Television time… see that? It’s time, time, time!”

“Well, Candyland is beyond time. How can you capture fantasy?”

Bob looked even more quizzical than ever before. Knots were forming in his head. He felt uneasy for the first time. He wished he could understand and solve this time puzzle.

“It’s ok, don’t think about it. You will understand someday… maybe when you are older. Now is the time to just enjoy. This one earth instant!

Bob looked cheerful now. Glen always managed to make his sadness seem so needless and stupid. He was right. No point just going crazy over the puzzle.

“Does your school teacher give you higher grade puzzles to solve?”

“No”

“Exactly. You wait to go to the next grade right?”

“Yes”

“Same thing.”

Bob’s face relaxed into a smooth surface now, the creases were gone. All by themselves now, his eyes seemed calmer now. Glen had silenced his questions.

“Ok, so let’s take the new route.”

Glen was glad to lead. He stopped mid-way .

“I hope you can swim…”

“No I cannot, why?”

We’ll, we have to cross the brown river…”

“Brown river?”

“Yes, you will like it. It’s sweet…”

“But I cannot swim!”

“Ok, no need to panic. Candyland has a solution for everything!”

Bob and Glen continued to walk the path led by Glen. Of course Bob was in a tearing hurry to reach the brown river. He strained his eyes to get a glimpse, but nothing in sight yet.

Glen suddenly directed Bob to turn left. Bob promptly did so. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Now they both faced a large body filled with brown liquid, flowing in curves, shimmering in its folds. Surely that wasn’t water.

“So that’s the brown river…”

“But what is that? It looks like.. ”

“Yes you are right!”

You mean ch? Bob’s teeth came together, unsure whether to form the word or not.

“Yes, say it. The chocolate river!”

Bob’s mouth opened wide in shock, awe, delight- all mixed in that moment. He couldn’t tell one from the other. Oh my Gosh! A chocolate river. Bob rubbed his eyes instantly to check if this were all a dream! He opened them back and the scene was the same- a chocolate river, meandering its way like any other river! “So are there any fish?” Bob’s mind ran amok right now, unable to deal with this dark reality.

“Can I touch it?” Bob’s eagerness to have this sensory experience was all too apparent. Glen sensed it even before he voiced it. Bob walked up to the river bed. He lowered himself with Glen’s approval and put his finger in the flowing chocolate: he looked at his chocolate dripping finger and his instinctive response was to lick it!

“Yes, it is chocolate! Yes, yes… hmmm, the taste… wow”

Glen smiled as he waited for Bob to get over his fantastic moment. Bob took his time. After all it’s not everyday that one comes across a chocolate river. Not everyday. This was an extraordinary moment. A real fantasy for all kids. But Bob was experiencing reality. How would he ever describe the feeling to all his friends, at school, in the park? Would they even believe him? Bob licked as much as he could, excitement writ all over his entire being. Even his clothes now carried signs of chocolate. Bob didn’t mind at all. May be that would be proof.

“Are we done yet? You will have plenty of time with the river. We have to cross it.”

“Cross? Ah but I cannot swim…”

“Yes, I know…”

Glen looked around and saw some pieces of waffle. He instructed Bob to pick up the planks, one by one: all sizes and shape. Some triangle, some rectangles, some circular. Bob arranged each piece neatly, just like Glen instructed.

“But what are we doing?”

“Wait.’

Bob kept quiet although that was a tough ordeal for Bob.  He simply handled every piece of waffle with care and temptation. Soon enough as Bob was about to put the last few pieces together, he realised what was emerging: A boat! He looked at Glen, the genius.

“This is a boat!’

‘Yes, thank God you recognise it…”

“You mean we would travel by this boat… to cross the river?”

‘Yes!”
Bob was more excited than ever. He now added the final touches of craftsmanship to the making of the boat. He had never made a boat, except the paper one in the monsoon. But a WAFFLE BOAT. Wow. This was getting better by the minute. Bob was glad he made this trip: the sweet adventures were just too sweet.

The boat was ready: perfect contours and curves with two little planks for seats on the inside. Glen gestured to Bob to drag the boat in the river. Bob looked worried, having never done such a thing before. Glen encouraged him wholeheartedly.

“Come on Bob, you can do it! You are big and strong. Never forget that.”

“Well, I hope I can…”

Bob mustered his guts as well as arms and put his little hands on the sides of the boat. And it moved so effortlessly like it were a feather. Bob looked zapped.

‘This is so light! Why didn’t you tell me? “

“When you are prepared for the worst, everything is a bonus!”

Bob wondered deeply over what Glen said. He stared in space for a while, trying to digest Glen’s words that actually rang true.

“Say that again…”

‘When you are prepared for the worst, everything is a bonus”

“Where did you learn that? It’s so cool!”

“Well, we all know that. There is nothing to learn and everything to know!”

“Hmmm…. Say that again…”

“Oh come on Bob, move on… we have to cross the river. Hurry.”

Bob snapped out of his profound moments and focussed on the present. He lightly nudged the boat and there it was in the river. Glen gestured to Bob to climb on. Bob stepped inside, wondering all the while how such a light boat would balance his weight.

Glen picked up two straight planks and jumped right in.

“What’s that for?”

“Well, how do you think the boat will move?

Glen showed Bob how to use them as oars for the boat.

“Ah! Well, I must say you are a genius!”

“Oh come on, this is common sense, the cousin of intelligence.”

Bob and Glen both laughed heartily at that as they rowed the boat through the brown, vivacious fluid- the chocolate river. Bob waited for Glen to start rowing. Then he followed, hesitant and scared at first but then began to enjoy the movement so much that he asked Glen to stop .He would take over. Glen gladly did, sat back and enjoyed the kingly pleasures o f being ridden. Bob’s excitement kept him going. ROWING ON A CHOCOLATERIVER. Would he ever forget that?

The boat passed through a few meandering turns that scared Bob at first but then he treated it like an adventure sport. They rowed on and on, with Glen careful to give Bob the directions lest they get lost and lose precious time yet again. Bob had a request.

“What?”

“Can I sing a song we learnt in school?”

“Ha ha, yes of course!”

Bob cleared his throat and began

“Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream!”

Soon Glen joined in and their voices echoed through the lush melodious soundscapes of Candyland. They both sang louder and louder, matching Bob’s rowing actions with the rhythm of the song. Wow. What a performance. Bravo!

As they hummed, Glen stopped of all sudden, staring at what lay before his eyes.

“What?”

Bob turned around and there it was- the bank was that close.

“We are actually there!”

Bob hurried and with a few master strokes, they touched the shore. Bob waited till the boat stuck its bottom on the shore and he popped out. Glen followed him. Bob turned around one last time to look at the river, almost nostalgic at leaving.

“Thank you for the ride!” Suddenly a wave rose in the river in the shape of a hand that waved out to Bob.

“Did you just see that?”

“Bob, I see it all the time!”

“Oh my God! The chocolate wave, saying goodbye…”

Bob waved his hands frantically, half in excitement and half in awe at the moment. It was made a surreal picture. Glen waited till the soap opera came to a close.

An unsettled Bob and Glen walked away from the shore. Glen knew he had to distract Bob to get his full attention.

“So are you ready to enter the pink dome?”

Bob looked around, puzzled.

“But I don’t see it anymore? Where is it?

“It’s on the other side… see that? The mountains. We will cross those and that’s it.”

Bob looked up and stared at hat looked like the snow-capped mountains. The lower portion was chocolate brown and the tops were white. Bob had something new to fancy his attention on. They walked on till they reached the based of the mountains.

“Is this chocolate?”

Bob scraped a bit of the mountain base and tasted. He was surprised again.

“ Yes, Bob…and the white tops- they are frozen milk.”

“As in ice cream?”

“Ah yes. That was the word I was looking for.”

Bob jumped in glee. Life couldn’t get more magical. The absence of his mom and the gigantic prospect of chocolate mountains with ice cream tops! This was what he had prayed for, he admitted to himself.

“You know I prayed for this sometimes!”

“Sure. We always get what we pray for.”

“Really? Everything?”

“Well, if it’s good for you , then yes”

Bob agreed instantly. He wasted no time in arguments that moved to his side. That was very Bobesque. Like his mom used to often say. Bob recounted the times he was denied ice cream. Oh that hurt a lot. Right now Candyland was the answer to his prayers- the whole of it so far. They climbed on to the mountain. It wasn’t tough at all. Especially since you knew you were climbing a chocolate mountain. Glen of course was faster than Bob as this was his homeland and he knew his way around with the dexterity of a champion. He was agile and took short, sturdy strides. Bob had a bit of a challenge though. See, he was most distracted by the very object of his fantasy: Chocolate. That slowed his climbing speed a bit. But he didn’t mind at all as he stole the chance to spend more time on that dark temptation.

Bob slipped from the dark slopes but this time he wasn’t hurt but delighted! Delighted to the point of wanting to do the climb again and again- like a film retake. Glen kept a close watch on Bob as he climbed with the ease of a mountaineer who was a natural. Sometimes Glen laughed, at other times, he yelled out a few ‘useful’ tips to ease the process.

“Put your right leg forward, then feel the grip, only then move the left… don’t be in a hurry..”

“Yes I am, but look at you, you are way ahead of me…’

“I was born here, Bob”

“I want to be born here too!’

“Maybe next time!”

Glen smiled as he continued to encourage Bob make it through the slippery, delicious slope. It was interesting to see how temptation led one astray from one’s goal.

Bob’s hands were by now, dark though he licked them dry thoroughly every time some chocolate came off the slope. After watching Bob spend precious time with the chocolate slopes, Glen decided it was time to wean Bob off it or they would never make it across the mountains.

“Ok now, Bob, you have to reach the ice cream tops… look up, there they await you. Enough of chocolate”

“Ah yes! You are right… that’s it! I am coming…”

From then on, Bob’s speed assumed a new force, a new vitality. He climbed with the dexterity of a veteran mountain climber. Bob’s chest expanded as he realised his achievement. He was good and he had almost made it. Glen smiled, in quiet satiety of the reason behind Bob’s speed. Bob was all praises for his new mentor: Glen.

“You are really wise Glen…how do you know what will work?”

“Well, you have to use your head sometimes, that’s all as sometimes the heart can sometimes lead you astray..”

“Wow. I wish I had used this every time Mom scolded me…”

“Well, now you can.”

“Really? But I wish.”

“There is no perfect time for wisdom. Rather, when wisdom dawn , that is the perfect moment.”

Bob looked quizzically at Glen

“Well, I sort of get that…”

“You will, as you grow older.”

“Well you know that’s what Mom says…”

Glen listened compassionately to Bob’s blabber that sometimes bordered on sense, sometimes on sensibility but at other times, plain foolishness. But Glen had the patience of a mother. That’s why Bob never really missed his Mom.

As Bob and Glen used bits and snatches of philosophy to make their way to the top, one thing was for certain. Glen would have to make allowances for Bob’s quality and quantity time with the ice cream tops! After all, he used them as a magnet to pull Bob up from his fetish for chocolate. Now he’d better deal with yet another of Bob’s obsessions.

The final step was taken and there they were – at the top of the mountain with dollops of ice cream to devour. Bob rubbed his chocolate stained hands on his T-shirt and shorts, whatever he could find as he readied himself for the final treat- a frozen one.

The only thing that was melting was Bob’s patience. He looked at Glen for him to give him the signal to proceed with his gluttonous designs. Glen deliberately bided time, taking sweet pleasure out of torturing little Bob. Bob wiped his hands even more vigorously, as if to send a cue to Glen. Glen stood, with folded arms, looking content and smiling at Bob’s indiscreet overtures.

“So there we are… now we are almost there: Bubbledom. The climb downhill is a cake walk- we just slide down…”

Glen gestured to Bob the way they would proceed, egging him on to the next step.

But Bob could not get his mind beyond the moment. Everything was frozen in time. Literally that too.

Finally Glen decided to lift the embargo and indulge Bob’s gourmet dreams. But not without a bit of fun.

“So shall we?”

Bob looked sad.

“Now?”

“Yes, why any problem? It’s easy. We just slide down. Bend your legs and then just let yourself go…”

“No I meant…”

“What?”

“The… Ok yes, let’s go.”

Bob spoke like a martyr. No it was Glen’s turn to melt. Melt he did. Glen lifted his hand and mumbled something with Bob staring at him, in anticipation.

Bob continued to stare. And just as Glen’s mumbo jumbo was over, Bob saw something transparent in his hands. It was translucent in colour, with a semicircle shape at one corner, all balancing on a stick.

“Here… go on; don’t you want to have a bite of the ice cream?”

Bob smiled, slowly understanding the tool that Glen was advancing toward shim. A spoon to scoop out the frozen delight.

Bob took the spoon from Glen and happily injected all his might into the ice cream top as if using a shovel. As soon as Bob took a lick of the scoop, his eyes closed as he enjoyed every slurp, his tongue sensing the icy creamy layers of pure delight. After the initial trance, Bob opened his eyes and what he saw actually made him scream.

There it was- the panoramic view of the mountain tops, now with different coloured creamy tops, lining up all the possible flavours that Bob could ever imagine: vanilla, strawberry, mango, chocolate, blueberry, mint, pistachio, raisin, almond, peach, raspberry… it was bigger than any ice cream bar Bob had ever been to. Bob stared at each one, his mouth watering at the possibility of being the sole taster of all, with the promise of unlimited delight.

Bob looked at Glen for an explanation. Glen just perched himself on the side and smiled. That was enough of a clue for Bob who was ready with his shovel. He had a hundred flavours at least to grace. Glen decided to snooze a bit as he knew Bob’s appetite could not be harnessed now. It was his time and Glen would not spoil it for him. Bob of course took on the mission very joyfully, knowing the bounty that awaited him. All Glen said was “It’s always a treat when you reach the top.”