There’s no easy way to say this, I love Maggi, and I love this country. We are all heart and no head, because every time there’s an issue, we lose it. So when someone says Maggi contains lead and MSG, a storm brews up, and lasts way longer than two minutes. The last time we outraged against MSG, it was a movie which featured a Superhero-God trying to kill evil with his armpit hair. It irks me that in the middle of it all, we’ve even forgotten the real issue: Maggi hardly ever takes just two minutes to cook.
What happened was this: we saw/heard something, and just believed it. Think of every such ‘crisis’ we face, and you’ll find it follows a few predictable steps.
Step1: Media reports a story.
Step 2: “HOW CAN THIS BE? KILL EVERYONE.”
Step 3: More cameras shift away from Kejriwal
Step 4: Baba Ramdev lies upside down and gives a quote
Step 5: A big, new advertising campaign countering set ‘perceptions’
You’ll see. I won’t be surprised if underpaid and overworked people at Maggi’s advertising agency are already busy conjuring up “ideas” that “press the emotional buttons of mothers in the SEC-A demographic”. And once again, we’ll believe it. All we need in this country is a current strong enough to flow, and we’ll be swept with it, without ever dropping anchor to stop and think for ourselves. That’s pretty much how we decide what movies to watch, what restaurant to eat at, and which leader to elect to power.
And it’ll fit too, because advertising started it all, by making Maggi this cult figure in every kitchen. Moms had no idea they had to prove their love by cooking Maggi, until Maggi told them so. Just like Madhuri Dixit had no idea the chemicals in Maggi were her fault. She’s probably more shocked than she was when she starred in a movie opposite Sanjay Kapoor. And if she or Amitabh Bachchan end up being sued, it’ll set a bad precedent, but a very interesting one. Because then, the next time you have a hole in your Lux Cozi, you can send Sunny Deol to jail.
Meanwhile, let’s not be under any illusions about being a very health conscious society, although that doesn’t absolve Maggi of any chemical wrongdoing, if any. It’s not like Maggi was a nutrient rich food for the gods that has suddenly become this heathen thing that’s set to destroy the world. Indeed, there are no marathon runners out there who are gutted because they now have to go off their Maggi diet and get back to their unhealthy diet of nariyal-pani, salads and god-help-them, frozen yogurt. If anything, we take pride in going the extra mile and making it even unhealthier, if “Cheese Maggi” and “Fried Maggi” in roadside dhabas are any indication.
Let’s, instead, look at Maggi for what it really is: a boon to people with limited cooking skills and sleeping disorders, college students who spend their allowance on more unhealthy things, and maybe working moms who are hard-pressed for time. It helps that it tastes great and is borderline addictive. The only way Maggi could be more addictive is if I rip open that masala sachet, arrange the powder in lines, and snort it.
Yes, I love Maggi as much as the next guy, unless the next guy is an FDA analyst. And I’m unlikely to stop eating it: just the way smokers don’t stop smoking despite pre-movie advertisements shouting into their lungs, and just the way we lick our kaala-khatta knowing fully well that the ice probably belonged to a dead person once.
So while Maggi will brandish slogans like “Taste bhi, health bhi”, it’s not about either of those things. It is, in fact, just something that has stayed with you through every life stage. Whether it was the time five of you dug into a friend’s Maggi-carrying tiffin-box at school, or that one time you were trekking in Ladakh and it was the only available option, or the time you were ranting on an online forum about how Wai-Wai noodles are better. It has now moved into the domain of nostalgia, a part of the stories you love telling. So irrespective of what Maggi says or the courts say, we’ll continue to eat Maggi.
And it’s going to be all right. If we’ve survived for so long, it’s unlikely that we’ll die of Maggi any time soon.