Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maggi : My comfort food

After wearying out the readers with the detailed development of my new house, let me move on to something which almost everybody likes. This blog is about the universal favorite instant noodle called "Maggi".  
As a kid, I don't recall being passionate about noodles. In those days, it was not very common to have them. Noodles were either cooked by some "avant garde" type relative (usually as an aftermath of a cooking class) or brought from the legendary Kolkata Chinese restaurant called "Peiping" (on Park Street). Peiping was famous for its "Chow chow" (not to be confused with the ill-temper Chinese dog) - which is basically noodles with plenty of vegetables and some gravy and the entire household seem to go gaga over it. I was the solitary voice of dissent, who protested against this Chinese aggression but was summarily silenced by the women in power. My grandmother used to be somewhat sympathetic while my mother used to dismiss it with her characteristic "motherly" one liner -  "He's just being difficult". As was customary in those days, I was usually given the choice of "Take it or stay hungry". 
In 1983, a company called Food Specialties Ltd, along with Nestle, came up with a new product called "Maggi" - a type of instant noodles.  We, of course, couldn't care less about these trivias excepting the all important fact that they came to our school and, as a part of their promotional campaign, gave every one of us a  packet of noodles for free. In those days, such aggressive marketing strategies were unheard of and more so in Kolkata, the so called "hide-bound" metropolis. I proudly took it home and much to my everybody's surprise, fell in love with it. It was, truly, a love at first bite. 
From that instant onwards, Maggi has become a part of my lifestyle. Just like the converts show greater passion that the original believers, I became a Maggi-lover with a vengeance. Our household patronized Maggi as if we are majority shareholders in this company and we have three family members in their board. To give you some statistics : 
Maggi was offering a small steel plate for every 12 empty wrappers of Maggi. In a period of 6 months, my mother managed to collect about 12 such plates at which point Maggi withdrew the offer and completely broke her heart. Which means in 6 X 30 = 180 days, we had consumed 12 X 12 = 144 packets of Maggi - a hit rate of 80%. 
I still recall that Maggi used to come in three flavours, namely Masala, Chicken and Capsika.  Capsica was extremely popular, closely followed by Masala. Masala and Chicken flavours have defied all management theories like Product Life Cycle (PLC) and BCG Matrix and are still extremely popular. Soon other flavors like Tomato, Curry etc and some "heath conscious flavours like "Multigrain", "Atta" etc have evolved. About two years back, they also entered the market of Cup Noodles which, hither to was the forte of Nissin.  In between, they also faced some competition from Top Ramen - who came up with Smoodles (smooth noodles) which were nice (especially their curry flavour) but somehow they could not dethrone Maggi for long. 
In my bachelor days in Pune, Maggi was one of our main stay as far as cooking was concerned. On more adventurous days, we used to add "Chorikos" - the fire brand Goan Sausage into it and avoid adding the Maggi tastemaker into it. We usually used to add cheese / cheese spread into it to somewhat reduce the firepower of the Goan sausages. This delicacy - almost the high-water mark of my culinary career, continued with me for several years till my decrepit alimentary system refused to absorb this any more. Forcing it down the esophagus these days either causes severe acidity or puts the rear side on fire, the next day morning. 
I loved the Maggi advertisements all along. I think one of the first ones was where the kids come home and shout "Mummy, bhookh lagi hay" and the mother beams benevolently and says "Just two minutes". As a kid, I often wondered why my mother's reaction invariably was to scowl and shout back "Go to the bathroom, wash your face and hand etc etc" instead of smiling in such beatific manner. 
Recently, my friend reminded me of another old favorite of mine 
Even their latest one about the cup noodles - "Just add garam paani, aur shuru ho ja jaani" - targeting the new generation of trekkers - is also quite catchy . 
A few years back, I was in IIM Bangalore for a short term management course specially designed for Business Managers. As is usual in such courses, we were given enough assignments to ensure that we never go to sleep till 2 am in the night. After the first couple of nights, we started feeling hungry at around 1 am (an old failing, I always felt hungry when I used to study as a kid). On the 3rd or 4th night, we decided to explore the campus to see if any edibles are available. And wonder of wonders - we discovered a small shop selling Maggi 2 minutes noodles, nicely cooked and garnished with scrambled eggs and stir fried vegetables. For the next 5 weeks, this shop was frequented at 1 am by a group of six 35+ mid level executives from an MNC. Malicious aspersions were cast on our moral characters because of  these nocturnal visits (this shop, incidentally, was located rather close to the Ladies hostel) but our loyalty towards Maggi was far beyond such dastardly allegations. 
Hope this brand survives the test and taste of time and continues to be a gastronomical delight for one and all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back to the basics : initial days at the new flat

For the selected few, who had been waiting with bated breath to know whether we survived the shift to our new "khandahar".....I mean new house, we did!! More importantly, our marriage also survived this terrible ordeal.
The last statement should not be taken lightly. Confinement into a limited space, an omnipresent 1 mm dust on all open surfaces, greater than 100 decibel noise level in the house and incessant invasion into our privacy by the workers was proving to be quite a toll on our mental condition. The whole thing was making me wonder whether this, finally, might become the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I was visualizing that one of these days, missus will quietly walk into the room and say those ominous four words -  "We need to talk". Thankfully, this impending doom has somehow been averted (probably because we were staying in one room only and there was no possibility of physically "walking into the room") and at the moment peace springs eternal. This, of course, is the status as on 11-June-2011, 2147 hrs and cannot be extrapolated for any futuristic predictions.  
Let me describe the first 3 days of our stay at the new house to give you a feel of how things were. 
Day 1 : 
Jumped around the movers and packers to get things packed in an organised manner (failed miserably; they did whatever they wanted in whichever sequence they felt is right and left us with a large number of unmarked boxes). Moved to the new house to discover that not a single room is in a livable condition (even by stretching our imagination beyond its elastic limits). Much heated verbal exchange took place, which predominantly consisted of asking the gentlemen in charge of renovating the new house to get off their back side and show some results. At around 8 pm, we finally got one room to ourselves, with an attached bathroom and a power socket to connect the refrigerator. Subsequent investigations revealed that the bathroom doesn't have any light or any facilities to hang clothes/ towel. 
Cooking was out of question - hence walked down to investigate the colony. Discovered Mr. Bindra's "Authentic Chinese and South Indian Dhaba" whose menu consists of Idli, Masala Dosa, Chana Masala and Aloo Paratha (Phoolka on demand). Despite the short menu, the food was sumptuous and we were too hungry or too tired to care.
Life's Lesson # 1 : All Izzz Well.
Day 2 :
Woke up in the morning to discover that the tea kettle has hidden itself in some obscure crate located at the most inaccessible part of the house. Managed to savage a saucepan and two extremely small "road-side quality" cups (bought during by my initial days at Gurgaon and I have not heard the last about my aesthetic sense or the utter lack of it from my missus) and made some tea. Tea strainer was not available, hence left the last 15% of the tea in the cup and used it for tea leaf reading. The tea leaves told me that life is gonna be difficult for next 2 weeks. As if I didn't know this!!
Life's Lesson # 2 : Learn to appreciate the simple things in life (like tea strainer)
We locked ourselves in the sole room which was at our disposal. The rest of the rooms were occupied by the painter, the carpenter, the tile fellow (why is he not called a "tiler" ? Must take this up with appropriate authorities; seems like a case of not respecting dignity of labour et al) and two visiting faculties - the electrician and the plumber. Sometime in the course of the day, the internet broadband service provider arrived and immediately had heated arguments with the electrician. After the dust settled, the wiring was, somehow, done to the satisfaction of both the parties. 
Life's Lesson # 3 : When there are too many cooks, pretend to be deaf-dumb-blind and a half-witted-ill-tempered moron. It won't solve your problems but will make you happy. 
Day 3 : 
Had to go to office. This proved to be an incredibly challenging venture as 
a) All my shirts had been packed in huge thailis using the curtains. This, though rather convenient for the packers, is not quite the best arrangement for the shirt. The sharp crease lines of the shirts were smeared giving them a strangely crushed look. 
b) The trousers, somehow, had escaped this ordeal but it was impossible to find the right shirt for the right trouser, forget about finding the right socks or the right shoes for them.
c) Only one pair of shoes were found - one which had a white streak on the front part - making it quite like the type Jeetendra used to wear. 
d) No trouser belts - hence a distinct possibility that if I don't hold on to my trousers with a one handed death-grip, I may embarrass myself and the community around me by exposing more that what is written in my contract.
e) Couldn't find my shaving cream or kit. Went to office with a two-day stubble. In Delhi, this is just about the worst crime that you can commit barring making indecent passes at your boss's daughter. 
Managed to survive in office. Nobody mistook me for a roadside beggar or Hrittik Roshan. 
Life's lesson # 4 : You are too small a pebble to cause a ripple in the smiling pool of complacency called life!!
Had pizza for dinner. The Pizza almost didn't get delivered as our main door does not have a name plate / flat number / calling bell. Thankfully managed to catch a glimpse of a man in pizza delivery suit standing pensively at our doorsteps, trying to figure out what he should do next.
Life's Lesson # 5 : When everything fails, pizza works. 
Life's Lesson # 6 : It works even better if you add an extra cheese topping. 
This interesting journey of our lives is still continuing. The bloke who said "Life is about the journey and not the destination" evidently had never stayed in a house with 6 set of workmen working in the house and constantly complaining about each other. 
Nevertheless, the end seem to be near and there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I am hoping for a Hindi filmy ending where finally everything becomes ok and all sorrows, if any, are packed and stored into some remote corner, never to be touched again.