Sunday, September 19, 2010

A bowlful of love

Was watching the movie Julie and Julia ( hope I got the name right) last evening and the foodie in me was stirred up and how. Racked my brains on what to write when it comes to food, given that I love consuming more than cooking! But more I thought about it, there was one thing that crept in again and again, grew slowly and assumed a gigantic memory pixel size in my mind, till I could avoid it no more and started punching the keyboard.

The first time Maggi came into my life was in 1984. Yes I remember the year for reasons more than one. Pimpim Aunty , mother's friend, gave my mother two packs of Maggi saying that this is a new "chow chow" which needs just 2 minutes of boiling that's all. The first Maggi making was almost a ritual- all of us crowded around mother as she put the saucepan to boil, broke the Maggi into four chunks like they showed on the back of pack, put them into the bubbling water. We watched mesmerised as the hard curls softened into appetizing swirls. Then mother slit open the tastemaker and the aroma that would be part of my life for years to come, wafted into our eager noses.

My next encounter happened a year later in Guwahati. We would be hungry in the evening, and call out to Bappi, our help, to make Maggi. She would make one packet and divide it between my sister and me. For my mother, fresh into her job, Maggi was not very cheap for a snack and we always shared a packet. And sometimes when she would be tired after work, we would all have a Maggi dinner in bed watching Aa bel mujhe maar and the other Doordarshan soaps.

Cotton College happened and my friend Stuti and I would pour over Economic notes over a steaming bowl of Maggi made by her charming mother. Aunty would also chop in carrots and peas just like they showed in the tv ad. Mother never did that.

University , Business Management and Maggi was still my faithful companion. Come home after classes and make a bowlful. By now,I did not have to share a packet but had my own.

First job in Kolkata- we would come home and have a Maggi dinner on the couch. I never felt that it was a shortcut. For me, it was a delicious meal I was never tired of.

Mumbai- 2000, new office, new friends, same old Maggi in the Fort office canteen. Made in a soupy style with scrambled eggs and yes, cheese and green chillies. Loved it and made it part of my regular lunch.

Problems in life, cooking became a chore, Maggi became my solace. Would chop in just about everything for a mood upswing into a bowl of Maggi, including Bikaner bhujjia toppings.

First evening in Bradford on my scholarship, strange kitchen, no idea how to light the gas stove- out comes the Maggi Instant Cup with hot water from the electric kettle. Each forkful brought back memories of home besides calming my raging stomach.

My baby born, three months of hibernation, Maggi lunches were all that I could manage with my baby wailing the minute I got up to make something for myself. I would savour the noodles, watching her cooing in peace next to me on the bed.

Relationships took new turns, more mood swings- downs overtaking ups rapidly and Maggi was my rebel partner. Helped me retreat to my quiet corner with my book and my thoughts.

And then it happened. Another food brand and the reveal. The secret to Maggi is that it is fried. At least the tasty variants. Could have been a malicious rumour. Didn't matter. For I choked . So this was the reason why I was bloated and ugly. I felt let down by a friend for years. On one hand was the strong bonding, and on the other, the fear of those extra kilos that never seemed to go away. The vision of a slim me won.Finally. I looked wistfully at the Atta Maggi which was not fried but airdried ( so I was told) but it was not the same as the Masala.

I started avoiding Maggi like a jilted partner in a relationship. I would race my trolley down the aisle across the yellow and green packs reaching out to me, reminding me of old times, I would skip any ad or jingle remotely connecting me to it. Soon, like all things in life, Maggi became a memory, and I moved on. To new foods, new relationships. Wheat, multigrain, skimmed were magic words that drew me like a magnet.

I see these magic words on my beloved brand as well. I see new brands popping up with more magic words- health, proteins, calcium till I almost expect a pack full of vitamins instead of a bowlful of warmth.

For that was what Maggi was to me. It was love, it was comfort, it was fun and yes it was unbelievable delicious and plain and simple, tasty!

And that's where the strength of every brand lies. Where it transcends beyond rational benefits to becoming a part of our lives. A friend, a playmate, a comfort. A partner in happy and not so happy times.
And creates a bond that is very very hard to break.