Saturday, 6 June 2015

Dear Maggi,..till we meet Again !

Had it not been for all this uproar around the ‘Maggi Ban’, we would scarcely have  been able to
realize that indeed Maggi was not merely a household name for a favourite snack - it meant much 
more to all of us, Indians. It had gradually and unconsciously, almost become a symbol of love,
affection, warmth and comfort in so many ways. When I think of it not even remotely having any
Indian origins-but being just another ready made snack brought into the Indian market a few decades ago by a foreign company actually ending up becoming such a meaningful symbol of a meal, - do I realize and feel amazed at the potential impact that any consumer good can have on our lives- cutting  across all human barriers of religion, beliefs, traditions, money and education.

The feeling of pain and sorrow as if I am almost about to lose a dear one forever, began to affect

me  first, last evening when I felt like reaching out for a packet of Maggi myself  and suddenly 

realised and got engulfed by a fear ,that ….for all that is being read and written about its fate… it 

may never be made available now ever  for us. Such an untimely demise that too without enough 

warning and preparedness! The fear hadn’t really dawned on me so far…

In fact earlier, during the last few days when I had just started coming across few blogs in social 

media about people going all out in support of Maggi in spite of proven contamination, and some 

going to the levels of mourning and observing minutes of silence, etc…I brushed away all,…

quite in disgust at the blissful ignorance of the pseudo educated elites …

But now, I too stand perplexed --how will many deal with the loss of an otherwise strong member in 

their normal state of things!

Come to think of it… this has been a case of a very powerful manifestation of 

people’s emotions being conquered” so well by an inanimate object – a food item this time --

that too a variant of Noodles, which otherwise has absolutely nil bearing or connection with our 

“culture and tradition”, the two more important determining factors in the lives of Indians that 

have set stronger precedents of taking over our emotional domains!

Whether in the far away past or in recent times or in the current discussion…, we, Indians have 

always been characterised by a cultural ethos which is so diverse and so rigidly governed by 

tradition and age old beliefs that it has been very difficult for any ideology or any consumer brand 

for that matter, to impact uniformly the entire population. Some limitation be it because of 

geography, religion or language has been invariably restricting the impact. 

However proud we may be of our own indigenous snacks like Samosas, or Dosas, or Rasgullas or Jalebi,..which have even made a mark in other countries;  fact remains that  within India , not even one of these can actually be termed as  being popular to the extent that they could boast of being omnipresent in each and every family in  every part of the country ,and unless amply modified as per local sentiments ,they stand but  little chance. Either they are completely absent in certain States of India or are eaten only after they have been prepared with necessary inclusions and exclusions, and are largely seen as  quintessential representative of a particular State only. 
So much so that when there occurs that oft repeated  celebration of the common rift   dividing us Indians , many  proudly claiming  their heritage ,their Statehood or more specifically their regionalism- the differences  between  North Indians and South Indians,  Easterners and Westerners;even the sweets and snacks aren’t   left out. 

Thus far from being a unifying factor, many a time they end up encouraging some divisive mind-sets!

But to our utmost relief and endless  delight , there has  been something about  Maggi that has successfully managed overcoming  all possible human barriers, bridging all gaps  helping it become the most widely accepted and savoured  food item in almost every household and bachelors’ den alike…….across the entire length and breadth of the country, too !

Yes, there are instances where people do  enjoy making it with their own Desi touch, sometimes adding Desi-tadka, sometimes, adding Sev-Bhujiya…and whatever other interesting combination at that,….but the overall affection and the whole hearted acceptance largely remains intact.

If I sit down to cite  where and when Maggi  starts making its quiet entry in our day to day lives, the list of situations is endless --right from the beginning of early  childhood tantrums when a young toddler makes a fuss about eating and then readily agrees to a bowl of Maggi; to a quick and tasty filling meal readily available  at any stage of life be it for students ,one before  exams, 
after a tiring playful day; to being the emergency hunger satisfier  when the mother and lady of the
home or the cook is away;…the source  of innovative cooking and fun during college-hostel-and
bachelor days;  to just being  a nice snack at offices canteens, train and roadside dhabas ; 
unending solace when a working couple comes back home too late in the night for either one to cook; or when it’s too stormy outside to think of anything more convenient and tasty…; to even 
days of trouble when you actually are in no position to do anything more than treating yourself to Maggi --------it has proven to being the most wonderful food item – having very genuinely cut across all possible barriers of race, culture, religion, economy , language, geography , age, sex.., -- and 
whole heartedly embraced by the rich and poor alike !

Surprising that the most popular punch line of it being “two minute” noodles, has hardly ever been
contested and over the years all of us have actually ensured that it does get ready to eat in a matter of few minutes. Chatting with some friends over the last couple of days, I have been forced to acknowledge that Maggi  was in fact not at all an item of choice or luxury, rather the  familiar
yellow packet had become more of a necessity in many people’s lives. Many parents who were
assured  that if nothing else- their sons and daughters who have just started to venture
out on their own would at least make themselves a packet of Maggi , now feel extremely bothered. 

Many young just married couples who at least had a backup in the form of Maggi that served well incase nothing worked out to please the appetite of their better halves, have started feeling insecure !

So many people have such  wonderful memories  to cherish when they look back at romantic stories and experiences of having dished out their best plate of Maggi for their loved ones…and so many wonderful relationships – be it with  friends, be it among  couples or work related, have blossomed over the years, thanks to Maggi.

It was also a sign of independence and self-sufficiency, for many busy workaholics ..

Brimming with mixed emotions myself, I can’t  do much of sensible research at the moment, but  to safely conclude and provide some rest to my restless soul, I can comment on what went behind the success of Maggi -  no it was not the “Divide and Rule” philosophy  practised successfully years ago by  the Britishers , and still very much in vogue among the fraternity of some modern day vested politicians , but instead  this time it has gladly been the sentiment of Unifying one and all  - through a  common thread -  through the  most important quality of this product -  “Convenience” with “Cost  Effectiveness”, which instantly struck the right  chord with the tummy, hearts and heads of  the Bharatiya Janata.

It’s indeed heartening to discover that when it comes to convenience and that too convenience 

around cooking and eating -which is not only necessary for human survival but are symbols of 

utmost gratification in our culture- it becomes so appealing to one and all. We’ve all heard the line 

that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach “…and it does not bear so much credence in

any other society  than in our very  own India … And the fact that it was  still being  sold in 

packets  costing  just tens  and twenties, ensured it reached even the less privileged ones !

What a powerful statement of having achieved Unity in Diversity….

A  big round of applause of course for  the intelligent marketers who managed the image of Maggi and positioned it so well for  almost three decades ---they never let it appear so common that it  would stand disowned by the upper classes –….and at the same time,  kept it somewhat aspirational   for the poorest households !

Not to miss on their powerful television ad campaigns which so successfully captured the emotions of one and all…., and when endorsed by Bollywood icons of the stature of  none other than  Big B and Madhuri Dixit…who can but , escape the charm !

There cannot be any such other success story ….

Aptly said, “higher you rise, the steeper the fall”….the levels to which Maggi had risen in our 

hearts was high enough to risk an equally steep fall…

No doubt there exist hundred other imitation products and noodles, who will try  making their 

presence, but I doubt if anyone can ever replace or fill the void that shall be left in our lives by our 

Dear Maggi! -

till we meet again…! 

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