My first Maggi was in Pune in 1983. I remember riding the bicycle to a neighbourhood store with six empty packets of the instant noodles firmly latched on to the carrier to claim a lemon yellow Maggi T-shirt. Back then, each packet cost Rs 3. I was on top of the world as I wore the oversized T-shirt and it went on to become my Sunday uniform teamed with a skirt or a pair of pedal-pusher pants.
Cut to 1992, long after I had outgrown my T-shirt collection and long after it had faithfully served my mom as dusters, I found my love for Maggi had only grown 10-fold. Now in college, it was heart-warming to find classmates bond over a plate of the noodles in the canteen.
By the time I graduated to the university, I discovered that you couldn’t go too wrong with a packet of Maggi. In fact, hostellers will vouch for the fact that it tastes just as good raw. The experienced will agree that if prepared strictly by the instructions on the cover of adding two cups of water, the noodles tend to get sticky.
Generations of hostellers have survived on packets of Maggi smuggled into their rooms and cooked on heating coils. In fact, many of us learnt to repair the fuse of our hostel wing which would trip when too many heaters were cooking Maggi. The overpowering fragrance of our Saturday night feast would give us away and there would be raids to seize our electrical appliances. Nobody protested or complained, for it was a small price to pay for our beloved Maggi. Soon enough, the bland hostel food would drive us to buy new heaters.
Cut to 2002, and I was thrilled to discover that my son loved my childhood buddy just as much as I did. In fact, there was no fuss when it came to a dinner of Maggi, vegetables included. There was no generation gap here. Many a mother has had a similar experience for she sees Maggi not just as an easy-to-fix meal but a trusted solution to satiate hunger pangs. Till a couple of days ago, Maggi symbolised succour and care. And that’s precisely why this controversy over lead levels is weighing so heavy.
It’s not that we were naïve enough to believe Nestle’s claims that Maggi is packed with calcium and proteins, but we’re also not as gullible to be told one fine day that banning the popular snack will ensure us good health. How about checking the quality of water we use to cook the two-minute noodle brand? Why not check the pollution levels in our rivers and save our lives?
It’s strange how the food and drug regulatory authorities suddenly woke up to find high lead levels or taste-enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) in Maggi, prompting a Bihar court to even order an FIR against brand ambassadors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta! Instead of putting us through this ‘instant action’, we Maggi fans hope governments will react with maturity and implement checks that don’t allow the erosion of trust in a product consumed for decades. Yes, we want our Maggi back, taste bhi, health bhi.
The writer is news editor with HT, Chandigarh.