Current Affairs

What is Organic food? It is the same food only a lot costlier

Ten years back, I would stay away from shops that had a glass door and were air conditioned  – they always tend to be costlier than the other shops. In recent years, thanks primarily to a booming economy and subsequent increase in my salary (psst…don’t tell my wife) I don’t hesitate outside such shops anymore.

If you ask me, what these air-conditioned shops were ten years back, the organic food is today. It is so freaking costly.

[mnky_ads id=”5202″]

Every time I go for grocery shopping, I see counters labeled ‘Organic Foods’ and high-heeled non-moms, moms, and grand-moms loitering around the counter.

Thats when I asked my wife, “Rekha, what is organic food?”

“Organic food?”

“Yes, I see these organic food counters everywhere now.” I persisted.

“Ah…organic food. Thats just regular food but costlier.”

My mother who was standing nearby got curious. Just in case you thought ours is a family that is kind to each other, let me not disappoint you, you are right. My wife and my mother have a very healthy relationship – a relationship that ensures the fittest survives.

Usually my mother doesn’t question my wife’s strategy but when they are important decisions such as ‘is coconut chutney with idlies better than sambhar with idlies?’ ‘does adding garlic in fish curry make it tasty?’ etc my mother jumps in uninvited.

In this case also she did. She asked: “If it is normal food, why is it costlier?”

Not to be seen as the one that doesn’t know her vegetables, my wife responded confidently: “Aunty, these are vegetables which didn’t have poisonous fertilizers and pesticides sprayed on them. Such stuff can kill people you know?”

Then as an afterthought my wife added, “Not that fertilizers and pesticides are the only way to kill people.”

I waited holding my breath. I had to keep this discussion down. Didn’t want one of them to be hiring a hit-man for the other. Thankfully better sense prevailed and they moved on to other topics.

But for a change I realized that my wife was right. Organic food is regular food but costlier. In fact, organic food is so costly that if yours is a household where a single parent earns, you are doomed.

Just in case you don’t know, organic food is the food your grandparents once ate – everyday, without paying extra. This was when they were calling the shots (and not relegated to a corner of the house by their kids) and you were either a molecule somewhere, a sperm in somebody’s testicles or a kid in your mother’s arms.

Organic food for which we pay so much wasn’t always this costly. In fact, the Apple Eve ate and triggered the fashion industry was organic and was free. The poisoned apple the witch gave Snow White in the fairy tale ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was also organic and free. Why then do we have to pay now for organic stuff?

Till about twenty years organic food was available in every store. There were no seperate counters. Our grand parents didn’t have to go to a fancy shop named “Farmacy” to buy Organic Food.

[mnky_ads id=”5203″]

There are a few things we can do to make sure we all don’t end up paying more for Organic food. Let us start with sharing this post on ours Facebook & Twitter and educate all farmers that we should ONLY be growing food without fertilizers and pesticides. Ohh wait, there is a problem. The farmers on Facebook aren’t real farmers….they are just Farmville players.

Growing Up

Story of my first date and why she never answered my call again

Alankar was a journalist with a reputed Indian newspaper – The New Indian Express – and known to hob-nob with the best in showbiz. Now, you may suspect that I tried to get closer to her for her money or contacts but no, mine was pure love. And some lust. She was pretty and this explained my affection for her. That was all. This is the story of my first date and why she never answered my call again.

We had got talking and I was trying to persuade her to a date. With much difficulty, she agreed. The condition was, I was not to touch her, and try any ‘funny tricks’. These were the days before Facebook and Whatsapp, that is, every conversation was in-person. So when she said ‘funny’ tricks, I could see her expression and knew that she was serious.

We met at Spencers Mall at Anna Salai, Chennai. We spent time breaking the ice. Soon we were talking about our relationship. Well, at least I was.

[mnky_ads id=5202]

Sometimes I got the impression she wanted to get over with this whole `Date` thing. But I was not going to give in. After all, she had agreed to this meeting after a persuasion that lasted nine months. You may think that I was patient with her but the truth is I never found another girl.

During our conversation, I told her how hard I worked and how all my colleagues loved me. And how I was likely to be promoted. I think she was pretty excited about this as she kept nodding her head, even as she stared at the people walking in and out of the various shops.

Finally, she asked, “Are we going for dinner?”

To be honest, it was my mistake. It was seven already. Maybe she was used to an early dinner.

We walked up to my Yamaha RX 100 which was parked outside. The happy young man in me gave away five rupees to the parking attendant. By the time I realized the financial folly, it was pretty late.

She started giving me indirect hints that she wanted to sit on my Yamaha but circumstances didn’t favor her. She said, “I don’t want to sit on your bike.”

Being a gentleman, I understood what she was going through. I mean, not all girls like to be spotted with the guy they intend to marry – before the marriage. But as the restaurant was at least 14 kilometers away, an autorickshaw was not a logical solution. I had already paid five rupees to the parking attendant as a tip and could ill-afford Rs 50 for the auto.

With a little bit of convincing, she was on my bike but she sat far behind on the seat. I was a bit disappointed for I was expecting her to hold me by my shoulder. The cool breeze from Marina Beach was hitting my back – the same back which was to feel her warmth. We had ridden less than 100 meters when my disappointment turned to ecstasy for I realized that she was just the right kind of girl I wanted to marry – she was cultural.

After half an hour of riding, we were at the restaurant.

Her first words at the restaurant were, “Eeeks! This place smells of chicken.” That’s when I realized I hadn’t asked her if she was a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian.

We choose a table next to the window so that she could occasionally stick her neck out for breathing. It was time to place our order. The gentlemen that waiters are, the man standing us asked her, “What would madam have for dinner.”

“Vegetable noodles,” pat came the reply. Then she turned towards me and quipped,”I just love noodles.” This got my testosterone flowing. If she loved noodles, I should love noodles too.

I just raised my two fingers and blurted out,”Make it two!” There was a smile of victory on my face as I watched the waiter go back with our order.

The plates arrived and we went for our forks. When I first saw the fork, I knew I had seen it somewhere before. One thought led to another and I finally landed on Lord Shiva. He holds a fork like trident (trishul, in Hindi). “Ah! So this is a fork!” I muttered to myself.

Blame it on my mother, who never cooked noodles or blame it on my father who never taught us to use forks but till now I had neither eaten noodles nor used a fork.

When I looked up from my plate, I noticed that she had already started. I stared at her for a few microseconds, for those elusive hints on how to eat noodles. She was fluent and went about the task at hand with a surgeon like precision. I was stranded. This was the first time in my life, I was having noodles and that too with a fork.

[mnky_ads id=5203]

I tried. I tried again. I innovated. But nothing seemed to work. Girls being slow eaters, I could keep pace with her for a while. But as she warmed up my inability to pick up the noodles with a fork was exposed.

Twenty minutes later, she had cleaned up her plate. Mine was still half full. Being an optimist, that is how I saw it.

I was already feeling the pressure. Here I was sitting before a girl well-versed with the ways of the world – and of course, the use of fork and I was not even able to finish a plate of noodles.

Through the corner of my eye, I noticed, she was looking at me. After what seemed like ages, she said: “Why don’t you try your hand. It might be easy.”

I didn’t say a word. I put aside Shiva’s trident and started eating with my hand. She watched me eat all the way.

After the date was over, we got onto the bike again. The gap still remained. The breeze still hit my back. Only this time it was colder. We didn’t speak much on the way back.

We haven’t spoken since this dinner date – it has been 16 years since. I had called her a few times, but every time her friend picked up the phone and said Alankar had gone out to buy dinner. Once the friend also added, “I think tonight she is planning to have noodles.” This was followed by lots of girls giggling, which I found cute. So she still discusses me!

Growing Up

Story of how Maggi noodles brought happiness in my life

[mnky_ads id=”5202″]
You probably cook Nestle’s Maggi noodles, eat it and forget it. Hardly so in my case. This article is to explain and celebrate the importance of two-minute Maggi noodles in my life (and my sisters’).

I first came to know about Maggi noodles in 1985. Back then I was studying in 4th standard in Seventh Day Adventist school, Kohlapur.

Nestle had introduced Maggi in India in 1983 and by 1985 students with rich parents had started bringing them for lunch. I first tasted it when my best friend brought it for lunch one day. It is a pity I don’t remember the name of this friend who introduced me to Maggi, but then thats where the romance lies. He made me fall in love with Maggi noodles and walked away.

“How do you eat this?” I remember asking.

“Simple. Just hold a strand between your thumb and index finger, keep it high in the air and slide one end inside your mouth.”

We were late for our next class. Lunch had taken up a long while that day – and why not? Each strand had to be separated, held up and slid inside the mouth slowly.

With time, I became an expert at eating noodles. To tell you the truth, when my friend wasn`t looking I would cheat. I would pick up a couple of strands and stuff them into my mouth.

In three months time we had to leave Kholapur in Maharashtra and settle down in Ballygunge Military Camp, Kolkata for the next three years. It was the most harrowing moment for me. I didn`t mind leaving behind my friends, and the four hens I had been rearing in our garden for I knew my father would anyway kill them (and eat them) before we shifted. The four hens, that is.

I was most worried about missing out on Maggi noodles. In Kolkata, will I find a friend who would bring Maggi Noodles for lunch?

Our move to Kolkata coincided with my father buying ECTV – though this TV`s screen was only 15 inches diagonally, the television itself was 40 inches wide. It was so wide that when my cousins visited, we played table tennis` on its top even as the rest of the family watched Doordarshan.

It was on this ECTV that I first saw Nestle`s advertisement for Maggi noodles. When it appeared again, I pulled my mom before the television set and said: “Mom! Look! Maggi Noodles! This is what Vikas Talpade used to bring for lunch.”

OK, there! I remembered his name.

“Ohh…what is it?” my mother asked.

“It is called Maggi noodles and is very tasty. Can we buy it?”

“No baby. That must be costly. We don`t make that much money, yet.” The ‘yet` in her sentence gave me hope.

“But father is always at work. Doesn`t he earn money?”

“Listen, why don’t I make kheer for you? You and your sisters love it, don’t you?” When I close my eyes I can still visualize the expression on my mother’s face at that moment. It was what I today know as please-accept-my-offer-for-I-have-no-other-choice expression. But back then I didn’t understand such expressions.

When I kept staring at her, she continued: “Don’t you think it makes more sense to spend that money on other things? You will anyway end up finishing it in two minutes.”

“But mom, when they say two minutes it is not about eating. It is the cooking time.”

My mom just smiled and went back into the kitchen. I stood there waiting for the advertisement to appear again. I loved the way Maggi’s advertisement was shot – the steam escaping from the yellow bowl in which Maggi noodles was being served made me yearn for it every time I saw it. I swear I even got the aroma each time Maggi’s ad appeared on TV.

First Maggi noddles pack we cooked at home

I must have watched the advertisement at least a hundred thousand times before I bought my first pack of Maggi noodles – sometime in 1994. It was my first scholarship money from school.

With great pride I walked into the house carrying a Maggi Noodles pack. My two sisters, my mother and I spent an hour looking at the Maggi Noodles pack and trying to understand how we should cook it. There were arguments on the approach to be taken, there were agreements on the risks involved. Everybody wanted it to work out fine. After all, it was going to be our first bowl of Maggi made at home.

My father was then posted in Akhnoor, Jammu and wasn’t in the kitchen that day to give his opinion on how the single pack of Maggi noodles should be cooked. Everybody else had a say.

I remember my sister, an athlete at school, saying: “Looks like cooking Maggi noodles is not a marathon but a 100 meters race. If you make a mistake, there is no time to correct it.”

She was right. My mother poured more water than needed and over cooked it. After eating the ten strands that each member got we came to the conclusion that cooking Maggi noodles wasn`t an easy task.

Maggi noodles packs I bought with my first salary

In January 1999, I got my first job – with The New Indian Express. On Feb 5, after withdrawing my first salary and buying a shirt for my father and a saree for my mother, I bought five packs of Maggi Noodles. One each for each family member. After all, it was a day to celebrate.

Once again, we had a conference of sorts where it was decided that this time my elder sister would cook. She did a fairly good job. The Maggi in my bowl wasn’t soggy or too hard – just the right amount of water had been added. My father had retired by now and he also joined us at the dining table. He took a mouthful of Maggi, enjoyed a few seconds of bliss and turned to us and said, “Wow, this Maggi thing tastes good. Why haven’t we had this till now?”

At this my sisters and I looked up at my mother and let out a smile. After all, now we had grown up and understood why she would suggest kheer every time we wanted to buy Maggi. My younger sister came to my mother’s rescue, “I know dad! How did we even miss this?!”

We decided to do this often – a whole family get together with Maggi as the main attraction. For the next few months every time I would walk in with my salary, I would have five packs of Maggi noodles with me.

After a few months of the Maggi ritual, we forgot all about it and got busy with our lives.

Maggi love never dies, it just goes down deeper

Now the innocent yearning for Maggi isn’t there. One doesn’t have the urge to eat Maggi every day. It doesn’t double up as a evening snack any more. But when I see a pack of Maggi, in all its vibrant yellow glory, it starts talking to me. Like a long lost lover you suddenly bump into in the shopping mall.

“Hey, remember the good old days?” the pack of Maggi would ask me.

“Of course, how can I forget the first kiss.”

“You just couldn’t take me off your head,” the pack of Maggi would continue feeling proud.

I would just chuckle, and say “Yes…now when I think about it, it does sounds funny.”

With its pride hurt, the pack of Maggi would reply: “No, it wasn’t funny.

In order to salvage its pride, the pack would continue, “And remember the day you took me home to your mother? I loved it.”

I would smile back. For the memories this conversation has brought back are so strong that I can’t ignore them. I have to feel her warmth yet again, even if for a day. I reach out for the talking Maggi pack and put it in my shopping cart for a one-night stand.

[mnky_ads id=”5203″]

Nestle started to advertise Maggi 2-minute Noodles during the ‘Hum Log` broadcasts on Doordarshan. Just in case you didn`t know in 1984-85 ‘Hum Log` reached 60 million TV viewers. Nestle`s plan paid off and soon enough the volume of demand for Maggi Noodles increased from none in 1982 to 1,600 tons in 1983. It would go on to become 15,000 tons in 1998. I don`t have the 2008 figures, but I wouldn`t be surprised if it is in the 50,000 tons range. The marketing of Maggi Noodles became a case study on how to market a new product. Taking a cue from Maggi`s success, other companies started thronging Doordarshan for program sponsorship. Thus, advertising rates went up and advertising revenues started pouring in for Doordarshan.