Relationships grow with time. They take hard work, dedication and well…..bad hostel food. Such was the relationship between me and Maggi, the instant noddles brand which had been banned recently amidst much hue and cry. When I had joined hostel, Maggi was just a snack, something that could be substituted easily with a sandwich, samosa(deep fried Indian snack) or rolls. But, it required excellent effort by the hostel chefs to deep fry paneer(cottage cheese) coupled with my roommate’s love story with Maggi which illuminated me. This illumination happened via a series of events which repeated themselves over a period of three years. Every night, this room-mate (lets call her ‘S’) would diligently pick up a cooking pot that she kept in a clean corner in the room(which was hard to find those days, since we mistook messiness for coolness). She would go to the tiny stove which was placed in between two flights of stairs. Some would see the stove as just another fire emitting appliance, but ‘S’ saw it as something which lit a fire of hope in her heart, that there was edible food in her vicinity and that she would not have to face a day where she was so starved that she would have to consume that…..deep fried paneer. I would accompany her on those fire-of-hope-Maggi-expeditions and watch her eyes light up as soon as her turn to cook came, even if the wait before that was half an hour long. She would boil the water first, then put the masala(spices), slit open two green chillies, break the Maggi square into smaller chunks and then….pure alchemy.Sigh!
Another friend of mine got seduced by this whole concept of Maggi saving lives and giving people hope deal. She got something which looked like it had been recovered from the ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. She called it an appliance , a kettle which would help us make Maggi. So we sat around the ‘kettle’ like early men would have sat around a pile of stones with the intention of starting a fire. Our hearts were heavy with gratitude of being able to cook Maggi in the room and perhaps cholesterol due to gulping down golgappas(Indian street food) with pure oblivion to the concept of calories.
She turned on the switch to the electric heater. Smoke filled the entire room within seconds. Now, regarding the usage of electrical products in the hostel, we were not even allowed irons. But, every morning irons were exchanged amongst people with a towel covering the irons. We were in no mood to start a crumpled clothes fashion line. After the smoke started escaping the room, we switched the Mohenjodaro structure off. We sneaked out of the room to check if anyone had noticed the smoke. The entire floor’s fuse had blown out thanks to our kettle and we were immersed in complete darkness…and smoke. We thanked our stars and metaphorically dug the relic that had caused the blackout to happen.
Years later, Maggi found a permanent place in my schedule – Thursday nights. Every Thursday night I would rip open packets of Maggi as a welcome to the long awaited weekend. The steady accompaniment of Maggi in my house was (and still is) chill paneer. The recent Maggi ban in India due to suspected high levels of lead in Maggi, upset me a little, leading me to question my faith in the food that gave me so much joy. I switched to the tangier cousin of Maggi, i.e Ching’s and fell in love with it. The switch wasn’t easy though. I had a lingering guilt every time I opened my cabinet door to fetch Ching’s and saw Maggi staring back at me, reminding me of my betrayal towards it.