Maggi Musings

December 1, 2012 at 9:15 PMDec (Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

When asked what she was cooking for dinner my friend, while chatting, said she was cooking “Maggi”. This was just two days ago and just an hour before my friend said what she was cooking I myself had prepared Maggi for myself and had it.

It is so much a matter of fact that many from my generation see Maggi as a meal that we hardly give Maggi a thought! When my friend, via chat, said that she was cooking Maggi, I, very casually and jokingly said that Maggi, for its popularity and its innumerable consumers, should be called as the national food of India. It is this ‘word fetish’ that made some thoughts regarding Maggi- as food, as an idea pass through my mind.

I remember Maggi as a “life savior” during my days in Delhi when I stayed with two lovely gentlemen- literally. On weekdays we would get food from Sharma Ji- roti and some sides- and on Sundays- the day that celebrates laziness we took resort in Maggi.

Laziness and Maggi seem to go hand in hand. But the history of Maggi says that lack of time in the nineteenth century in the industrial Switzerland gave birth to Maggi. The women had no time to prepare food so the Swiss Public Welfare Society requested Julius Maggi to come up with a food product which would be easy to cook. This was in 1887.

In India Maggi made its entry in the year 1983, almost hundred years after it coming into existence. The earlier days of Maggi was not easy in India, because of the Indian food psychology which couldn’t accept a fast food or anything other than its staple food- wheat, rice, ragi, as meal. But with the Indian society becoming open to working women, the society being close to liberalization which would shape the new generation in a new fashion, India slowly opened up to the idea of Maggi and the food product Maggi slowly making space for it on the meals menu.

Studies have said that Maggi, in India, targeted women but could not succeed in its marketing because of wrong target. Their study made them come up with the new strategy of targeting the kids. Then came the ad which many of my generation grew up watching “Mummy Bhook Lagi Hai,” being said by two lovely kids and their mother replying to them, “Bass Do Minute.” I still remember how my sister and I had water in our mouths watching the ad and how my parents reacted to it. My parents compared noodles to earthworms! But that did not have any impact on my sister or me. Maggi became one of the first reflections of the so called ‘generation gap’. But soon parents too gave in to Maggi and it entered our kitchen too. This was early nineties.

Though my parents welcomed Maggi into the kitchen they have never been able to accept it as a meal. But with my sister and me it goes well as meal. I guess it’s the same with many of our generation and the generations that followed us. “It is easy,” as many say. It is not just our laziness but also the busy schedule of the new working conditions in a new city architecture which has made us accept Maggi.

Its also a matter of time, I think. Maggi got introduced, as mentioned earlier, at a time we as a nation were undergoing a kind of change which could accommodate an idea called Maggi. The changing scenario made way for Maggi and the changed scenario along with Maggi made way for a new culture and lifestyle.

I think Maggi was a precursor of many things which became the new idioms of the new century like SMS, twitter, frame-fucking editing.

“Two minute” was the catch word of Maggi. Short span of time required. It holds good for the lazy and the busy, both. That is what made the idea of Maggi click, it appears. The idea of Maggie laid foundation for all other similar stuff which started playing to the decreased attention span, decreased patience mixed with the ‘time is precious for time is money’ attitude of the liberal India. The new condition of lack of time in the liberal India also strengthened the idea of Maggi work.

During one of non-class discussion with a student of mine, while I was teaching, I remember, having been irritated by the impatient attitude of the student in watching a cinema, considered “slow”, and shouting at the student saying, “This is the problem with you Maggi generation people.” The student had shot back at me asking, “Which generation do you belong to?” I belong to the generation which saw a bit of pre-Maggi India too but got absorbed by the Maggi India. My parent’s generation, even today cannot have Maggi for a meal. But my generation does. The generations that followed us grew up in a Maggi India. Now with my parent’s generation being less in number and my own generation and that followed us being large in number the idea of Maggi and Maggi as a food is the new culture of our society.

In its early days, when my sister and I had water in our mouths seeing the ads, Maggi was still a matter which had not attained normalcy in our lives. It was occasional. As years passed Maggi attained a normalcy in all our lives. Like rice, wheat, ragi, jowar etc Maggi has attained a staple food status, to a large extent. So much so that this evening when my friend called me to ask if I have anything at home he asked “Any food at home?” and before me answering him he extended the question, “Maggi?” That reminded me the way in which, once upon a time, the question was being asked, “Ghar mein chaawal hai?” to mean, “Is there rice at home?”

To say that Maggi has replaced rice, wheat and other staple food of ours is completely wrong. We still crave for rice, wheat etc but have made Maggi a part of our normal lives. Maggi has played its trick by marketing ‘Aata noodle’, ‘rice noodles’ etc. That is one interesting thing about this country. It can live in multiple generations at the same time. It can have Maggi and rice stored in the same container. Like it can watch Aastha/God/Peace channel in its newly bought flat screen television set. Like it can still consult an astrologer for an auspicious time to conduct nuclear tests, like it can use internet for arranged marriages. The past continues to exist in a distant future and interestingly the past, present and future all alter themselves to an extent for this co-existence. It is also a curious Indian psyche that replaces the names with brand names. Photocopier becomes Xerox and noodles becomes Maggi.

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1 Comment

  1. Prajna Shastry said,

    Interesting insights into the Indian mind, connecting ‘maggi’ with the transition time, future generation and Indian mind -a mind that can store maggi and rice in the same container. Rightly pointed out! I think it is somewhat unique to Indian culture itself. Good write up 🙂

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