Maggi: Adding the Tastemaker to Form Connections
How Maggi Built Bonds
Break the noodles into 4 pieces. Add the tastemaker into boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes (lol). Stir occasionally. Serve hot.
I have made Maggi more times than “insert metaphor”. I still read the instructions. It’s my ritual, prior to making it. Not to mention, my utter lack of confidence in my ability to cook anything.
So, I read the instructions.
Make Maggi. Serve it hot and eat.
That’s it. That’s the story.
Because let’s be honest, there’s nothing that I am going to write here that’s actually new. The story of Maggi is intertwined with many of our lives. You know it’s been a constant in a lot of Indian households ever since it entered our country a few decades back. You know Maggi has become synonymous with Instant Noodles and that you only consider alternatives out of absolute necessity and not a choice. You know you can find Maggi in almost every corner of our country, and I am sure you would have heard the story of the Siachen Omelette, a dish served 20,000ft above, which involves making a Maggi.
You won’t be surprised if I told you that Maggi is still one of the top trusted brands in India, only behind the likes of Tata, and I am sure you, just like me, believe that some of the best advertisements made will include some or the other ad from Maggi.
This last bit is particularly amazing when I think about it. It’s fascinating, how no matter who I talk to about Maggi, they have a personal story or moment attached to it. No wonder this is taught in marketing courses.
These ads aren’t great because they’re produced well. We have lived in these advertisements. I was the small annoyed kid, who would feel only satisfied after having Maggi. I was that teenager who would make Maggi when I had midnight cravings (still do). I was that person who deeply missed Maggi when it was banned for a while because let’s face it – the alternatives just don’t have that magic. There was a great sentiment behind Maggi, about how it can be considered one of the few unifying things across our diverse country.
We know all of this already. So, I am here only to make one more (not so unique) observation about Maggi. It’s not only 'accessible' but for me, it has given the unique ability to form connections with some of the best people I know. Over the last 4 years, this packet has come to hold a special place in my memories. Like everyone else, I too have many moments associated with it.
A few years back, I was leaving Bangalore to study in Jodhpur. I was alone. I was away from my family, surrounded by absolute strangers, and most of all, I was away from home food. The mess food didn’t really help because all mess food is soul-numbing after a point.
Of course, life has to move on. I tried to get used to living the university life. I had to live with people I did not know, eat food I didn’t particularly like, and live in a new and strange environment.
The one thing I can say about my first few weeks in college is how I found solace in Maggi. Just the smell of it being cooked reminded of that plate of Maggi I had at home. If mess food is soul-numbing, then Maggi enriches my soul.
But, it is at this stage that I noticed something else was happening as well. Many of the people living around me, the “strangers”, also were facing similar home-sickness. It’s here where I completely understood the old adage that food forms connections.
Whenever I would make Maggi in my room, inevitably there would be a knock outside my door. It didn’t matter what time of the day it was. It could’ve been the dreary evening before an exam, or one those weekends where no one really wants to get out of our rooms. I guess the fragrance of Maggi is a magnet, and immediately attracts people. Normally, I enjoy Maggi alone (which is great) but during these moments when someone would ask or even just show up, I wouldn’t be able to eat it alone. I grew up in a family where sharing food was the norm and I never had it in me to say no.
So, I would share.
And, in the early days of college, the people I shared Maggi with, soon became the people I now consider my closest friends. It opened the door, quite literally, to some of the most random and meaningful conversations I have had.
Here’s the thing about Maggi though. It doesn’t matter who has made it, you will have moments associated with it. I wasn’t the only one making it, I was also the person who would knock on someone else’s door. Or when we were sick and tired of the mess food, we would visit the small restaurants outside our university gate and order food.
Our table at these restaurants would always have a plate/bowl of Maggi. (I would eat Maggi outside a lot more often because cleaning dishes is best avoided). More than satiating my hunger, I remember those moments for something else. Those flavorful noodles were the medium through which I built bonds with people. I opened up to them about myself and I got to listen to some great stories too. We had conversations ranging from the essence of Khakra (which is that it’s the most versatile Indian snack), to our favourite dark jokes and, I know it is cliché, but there was a bit of meaning of life conversation as well.
All of this over a bowl of Maggi.
It is what I miss right now. I miss making Maggi at odd hours of the morning right before our exams. Where friends would enter my room, and we would eat, and do everything but study. I miss knocking the door of someone who's making Maggi and forgetting our sense of time while eating it together. I miss going out to eat Maggi, where we would play and fight over Monopoly (and this amazing game called Sequence).
Everything I have described till now, you already know. You’ll also know that this packet of noodles is special because it’s going to remain a constant in your lives, regardless of what’s going on right now.
If I glimpse into my future a few years later, I know when I am making Maggi, I’ll be following the golden rule – one packet isn’t enough. I see myself breaking the noodles, adding it along with the tastemaker to boiling water. My preference is still going to be plain old Maggi (I am sorry if I offended some of the more creative cooks). I just hope, when I am serving it, I am also sharing it with my friends - somewhere.