The attacks on Maggi and the forged analyses of its amount of lead, Monosodium Glutamate and other elements reveal the hegemony of crony capitalists, industrialists and the powerful in this country. Maggi is not just packaged instant noodles. Maggi is an aspiration. Maggi demonstrates India’s power over imperialism. It is evidence of India’s tactical prowess over Western powers, and its graciousness in accepting invaders and making them a part of this civilisation.
Generations in India have been nourished by curly strands of Maggi noodles, saturated with powerful flavouring. Maggi, a product of a Swiss capitalist company Nestlé (blatantly promoting imperialism), came into our motherland in 1982. Like all invaders into our great motherland, Maggi initially tried to dominate the noodle market, trying to influence the Indian consumer to appreciate a Swiss product. But like all invaders, it had to bend to our motherland’s will, and innovate and create two new flavours for us – masala and chicken. (It must be noted that the corporate giant dared not create a beef flavour.)
“We must fight for our 2-minute instant noodle. Let it kill us if it must, but we must remember, if we die, we will die not of lead poisoning.”
How did India react to Maggi when it reached its amrit -filled shores? Did India barbarically throw the great Swiss invader out? Did India destroy packets of Maggi and deny 2-minute instant noodles to its populace? Did India play dirty diplomacy and let Japanese Ramen infiltrate its noodle markets? No. Our great civilisation, in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, embraced Maggi noodles as an Indian product and the rest is history.
Today, when an Indian buys a packet of Maggi for 10 rupees, she does not buy instant noodles. Instead, she buys the idea of India, that our forefathers imagined, well before our internationalist first Prime Minister. That not only is a dry bundle of noodle intact, but our culture, traditions and values are preserved within the yellow foils of a plastic Maggi packet. That while India grows and modernises, its flavours are intact and no imperialist corporate hegemon can take that away from us. That while we allow invader instant noodles, we make them a part of our civilisation, and not the other way around.
Maggi is the food of this soil, of dancing mummies, of children whose life has no meaning or purpose but for their lunch boxes, and plebeians trekking to mountains and finding strands of capitalism through Maggi packets in socialist wastelands. Maggi represents the idea of India, as a land that may look modern and Western, but that has its Bharatiya flavours intact.
Today, we all know what is happening. In the name of science and testing, a great national symbol is being decimated. We must come together at this dire and dark moment in our national history. We must fight for our 2-minute instant noodle. Let it kill us if it must, but we must remember, if we die, we will die not of lead poisoning. We will die fighting for the honour of our great culture and values. And that masala flavour, manufactured only in this great civilisation.
Sarah Farooqui is a culinary geo-political strategist. The views are personal.