So Maggi has been banned and Nestle India is surely in for long drawn legal battle to get it back on the racks. As a lawyer, I will follow the twists and turns that will make the TRPs soar. In a parallel universe, a reigning God will proclaim victory and declare verdicts on Indian television while shouting his way to glory. But media trials, newshour debates and all other related adult life complications are not the staple of this post, rather its about a life saviour and a friend.
Maggi was not quite a regular part of my life when I was a kid growing up in 90’s India. My mother was very strict and careful about our diet and she did not quite like the idea of instant noodles. That did not stop me from wondering about whether Maggi could actually be made within those 2 minutes. On those rare Sunday mornings, when I had the privilege of having Maggi, I would make sure that my mother saved a little bit of the tastemaker that came alongwith. I liked the tangy taste, the chicken noodles one tasted better. Mind you, this was still 90’s and all those other variants like “Atta noodles” and “oats noodles” were still not in vogue.
(Image Source: Here)
And then law school happened. Our campus was strictly residential and we had the privilege of sampling NALSAR mess food. I will rate NALSAR mess food as one of the better hostel food served in the country, but then if there was a true saviour for those innumerable days of hunger pangs and home sickness – it was Maggi. Strangely enough, even when my mother abhorred the fact that I often skipped my meals and substituted them with Maggi as my dinner, she got me an electric kettle so that I could prepare my first ‘self made’ meals at my hostel room.
Home sickness also made me miss home every time the tanginess of the tastemaker felt its presence felt in my mouth. Probably, I could imagine how my mother would have scolded me one more time if she saw me eating instant noodles again.
Thomas, the messiah of the girls’ hostel in NALSAR made sure that we all had our cup full of Maggi because those midnight growl of the stomach was unbearable during those long hours of chitchats about “dil, dosti and etc” and sometimes, only sometimes about exams 😛 Our midnight tea at Thomas was often accompanied with a Maggi cup noodles snack. And there was “Mama” or the “Needs aunty” who made sure we had Maggi whenever we wanted. Mama sometimes tried to be experimental with Maggi, the result being hair from his wig landing in a soupy puddle along with the noodles. A true NALSAR-ite will know the taste :).
After graduating, I started work in Hyderabad. I continued with my college time roommate and stayed in a well furnished PG accommodation. The best part was that we all had separate apartment kind of set ups with kitchens and living rooms. Paridhi, my room mate and I had experimented with the Maggi, there too.We improvised on the cooking bit while adding chillies and onions to the Maggi bit. We were getting better.
(Microwave(d) Maggi prepared by me a few years back. Never knew that it will be a treasured picture so soon)
This might just sound autobiographical, but I just realised that Maggi has been a part of major milestones in my life. The next one being, my marriage.
What do you think happens when two young souls fed on hostel food for several years are destined to be soulmates?
Ans: Maggi for breakfasts and often dinners.
This continued till our beloved “Kaka” decided to make sure that we remain well fed. But as destiny would have it, that either I was too fond of Maggi or Maggi was too depressed to leave me, that we decided to move to Germany for sometime in between.
The culinary struggles of both of continued in the kitchen, but the very first sight of Maggi on the racks of Indian stroes in Bonn, made me heave a sigh of relief. So did my husband. He had a previously experienced the love affair in America, but this was my first time. Truly speaking, the sight was almost like feeling the presence of somebody you have known for so long while in a completely unfamiliar territory. I remember that the Indian stores around Bonn Hauptbahnof did not sell the Maggi’s chicken noodles variety and we had crossed the Rhine and gone off to Beuel to Sri Lankan shop where the chicken noodles were available.
The next thing that I did was to call up a friend who was also longing for Maggi chicken noodles, to share the news. The celebration was palpable.
(Image source: Found over the internet through Google search. the main page refuses to open, but thankfully, the image was available for reference purposes)
We had tried the Maggi available in Europe that is probably locally made and other varieties of instant noodles available there, but nothing measured up to the taste of the “Made in India”/”Made in the subcontinent” Maggi. Probably the excess of MSG did the trick and that’s why we always bought it from the Indian/Asian stores even if the price was often steeper than the locally available and albeit, much healthier varieties of the same noodles.
I returned to India to resume work while the husband kept on making business trips for work, but the Maggi connect remained in our lives. Kolkata is food lover’s paradise and the road side vendors made sure that your morning breakfast Maggi are (were!) special. Everytime, I was running late for office, I would assure my mother (who would still be shouting about too much consumption of instant noodles), that either I will take refuge to either “Luchi cholar daal” or the various varieties of Maggi (Egg, with onions/without onions, with greenchillies/without greenchilies). That one plate and a ‘bhanrer chaa’ (tea served in earthen pots) made my mornings, till some weeks back.
My husband left for another intercontinental business trip today and like everytime, I was about to tell him that keep some Maggi handy from the nearby Indian store. I stopped at the thought thinking that probably those ones are also not available anymore. Probably.
I never thought of Maggi to be a healthy snack or food item. At the back of my mind, I knew just like any other instant food/ready to cook meals, Maggi cannot be completely a healthy one. But then again, Maggi is about a lot of memories, of coming of age and of adulthood.
Maggi is actually a reminder of the times when the jingle on TV- “Suno everybody, suno everyone, Happy news at school of fun…Maggi is back” cheered us up and brought a smile on our face. All the time 🙂
P.S. All the images used here are for reference purposes only. The author does not patronise the consumption of Maggi and trusts the law of the land to take a balanced decision in the case. It is just an anecdotal recital and some indulgence in nostalgia.