I still remember that day in my school when those attractive, yellow, lightweight '2-minute noodles' packets were distributed to each one of us by the sales people telling us to give the packets to our moms and tell her to prepare the tasty dish in 'just 2 minutes.' That is how Maggi forged into the Indian market about 30 years back promising the consumers especially children that you don't need to take all the time in the world to please your family with a tasty delicacy. Needless to say, this instant noodles instantly became not just a household name, but a member of every Indian family as it was reasonably priced. The concept then was totally new to the Indians most of them who did not know about the noodles other than the Chinese Egg noodles which was not very popular as it contained 'egg'. Maggi monopolized the Indian market and the name became synonymous with the '2-minute noodles'.
The masala sachets that came along in the Maggi packets were initially in four flavours- Masala, capsica, lasagnia, chicken. Maggi targeted mostly school going children. The early ads showed kids coming from school shouting 'Mummy bhookh lag rahi hai' (Mummy, I am hungry). The beautifully sari-clad mummy assures her child 'bus do minute' (just two minutes). In those few seconds of ad, the maggi and the masala are emptied into the boiling water containing those colorful green peas and disc-shaped carrots to cook in '2 minutes' ( yes, we all know it takes more than 2 minutes!) and placed steaming hot on the table to be devoured by the hungry kid. It was presented in such a luscious manner that it was enough to send kids like me to run behind mama demanding for that bowl of noodles. My dad was not fond of noodles and my mom used to eat though not that crazy about it. But, we sisters, were equally crazy about it and if one packet was made, it would be just enough or even less for two of us to the point of telling 'you finish it'!! If noodles was packed for lunch, I would selfishly cover with the lid and eat, so that my class mates do not come running to me asking for a share! As I grew up, I started to make it on my own using chilli powder, coriander powder in addition to masala powder. I used to relish eating the masala powder. I enjoy eating the half-boiled and boiled plain maggi. I have the habit of keeping about 4 Maggi packets as a reserve either for emergency or when I am too lazy to cook elaborately. My husband also enjoys Maggi but more in soup form or by adding tomatoes, which I detest. When I boil macaroni to make pasta, I boil few strands of noodles along with macaroni to eat it the bland way. But over a period of time, there was a natural waning for the craving to eat it for the reasons unknown. I realized that the masala was very salty and did not add much salt while making the noodle dish. Of course, I still used to make it until recently, but if I made it once, I would not be making it for the next one month or more than that. I like it it dry form and so I feel thirsty after I ate noodles. This instant food slowly started taking backseat in my life. I started buying more of Atta noodles for the 'health factor' the company was claiming.
One old joke which keeps circulating in our society is that if a bachelor or a prospective groom knows to cook it means that he knows to make Maggi! That qualification seemed enough! So much for the culinary skills of Indian men! Maggi celebrated its 25th anniversary by asking the customers to relate their childhood anecdotes of growing up with Maggi. Ads were shown how people related to Maggi as a part of their growing up years. Aaah, you would have guessed by now why I am writing so much about this topic. Nestle's Maggi has been in the news for sometime for all the wrong reasons. Our Food Safety Authorities seem to have woken up from a deep slumber one fine day to test if the safety standards are adhered to by Maggi. Some samples of Maggi were taken by Food Safety and Drug Administration in Uttar Pradesh and it was found out that they contained high levels of lead and Monosodium glutamate in a packet and declared it unfit for human consumption. Soon more states went ahead in testing and banning the product from their shelves. Celebrities like Amithabh Bacchan and Madhuri Dixit were warned to withdraw their endorsement, or else, firm action would be taken. Though Nestle defended against the allegations, its response was, in general, weak. I expected them to hook to a celebrity who would show the equipment and factory where Maggi is manufactured and how it strictly followed the safety standards and that it is harmless to the human body, just what Coca Cola did some years back with Aamir Khan when the allegations were made against the the coke. But nothing like that happened. FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) defended the ban by declaring it not safe for kids to have it.
Last week, in a respite for Swiss company Nestle India, the Bombay High Court had observed that principles of natural justice were not followed by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Maharashtra's Food and Drugs Department (FDA) before imposing the ban.
After it was declared unsafe for consumption, I wondered how it has not affected my health due to 'lead poisoning'. Of course, I am thankful for it. I am sure many of my folks around will be feeling the same. Will India's first ever 2-minute noodles make a strong come back and in what avatar? Lets wait and watch.