As India’s favourite bowl of instant noodles, Maggi (fondly a.k.a ‘Meri Maggi’) makes a dramatic return into our lives (and larders), not all seem too pleased. Of course, an overwhelming majority of the population is exultant, consisting primarily of busy-bee working mothers, malnourished hostelers, opportunistic street hawkers and fat kids. But there are always out-liers to even the most popular and consistent trends. And in a world that abounds in Maggi lovers, one such exception is the cook at our hostel.
Meet Munshi Ji. As the sole help employed in the hostel kitchen, Munshi Ji’s chief task of the day is to provide three square meals to the forty odd hostelers. As a man of principles, Munshi Ji takes his job very seriously. He is dedicated, meticulous, punctual and sincere. He has all the attributes of an efficient manager. But when it comes to provision of a service like the one rendered by Mr. Munshi, effectiveness is seldom sufficient. Customer satisfaction is paramount. And that is where Munshi Ji is an epic failure: his preparations are timely, but lack a very important ingredient- edibility.
Munshi Ji’s food can be used as a weapon of mass destruction. His food is capable of murdering the appetite of even a jailbird. It is bland, extremely oily and lacks the ability to satiate the taste buds. It is because of the deplorable character of his food that most girls shun his cooking.
It then hardly comes as a surprise when you see lunch being re-served as dinner, or the dinner surreptitiously making its way into our breakfast (in the form of devious looking paranthas and cutlets). Even after the this cleverly engineered ‘best-out-of-waste-program’, some food is left over, it piles up in the kitchen fridge, and then one fine day, finds its way into the stomach of some hungry stray animal; or worse: down the garbage chute.
Let’s re-focus our attention to the poor hostelers. In a world governed by Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’, Maggi is a beacon of hope for these girls. Ordinarily, when Munshi Ji makes bad food, girls start queuing up in the kitchen with their faithful packet of Maggi. The simplest, fastest and cheapest solution to the abominable problem of tori, aloo-methi, channe-ki-dal and deep-fried bhindi is Maggi. Perhaps, for the average Indian, Maggi is just another instant noodles brand. But for these girls, Maggi is a means of existence. It is the only thing that can silence a grumbling stomach and chronic starvation.
Munshi Ji’s rigid and orthodox sensibilities,however, just can’t digest this reality.The man’s hatred for Maggi is beyond my comprehension. Whenever a girl walks into the kitchen with her Maggi in hand, Munshi Ji makes his displeasure obvious. It’s almost as though he has made it his life’s mission to rid the hostel of Maggi.
Perhaps Munshi Ji considers it an insult to his culinary skills. Or maybe he just doesn’t like the colour yellow. It’s a little difficult to put a finger on the exact reason for Munshi Ji’s Maggi vendetta. However, one thing is clear: the coexistence of Munshi and Maggi is not a happy one. And under the current circumstances, conciliation of the two seems fairly unlikely. But miracles never cease. The other day, when I made Maggi and offered some to Munshi Ji, he took a forkful, swallowed it and made a face of disgust. But a minute later, when I returned to the kitchen to grab some sauce, I’m pretty sure I saw him lick his lips and smile. Who knows, world peace just might become a reality some day.