Home / Opinion / The return of the delusional, irresponsible and lazy Maggi Mom

Ever since Maggi Noodles re-entered the market last week, they’ve been flying off the shelves. I went to five different stores—mega, big, medium and small—only to find that stocks had run out within a day. I’m glad for Nestle, because thanks to the government ban on Maggi Noodles for supposedly having lead beyond statutory limits, the company has not only made massive losses, it had to destroy 400 million packets of Maggi products. In a land where there is so much paucity of food, any wastage or destruction of food is ludicrous. But the government wanted what the government wanted. Either way, fresh tests which were asked for by the Bombay high court in August found all 90 samples of the noodles, covering six varieties, safe for consumption with “lead well below permissible limits", according to a statement released by Nestle.

Along with the noodles, which I cannot understand the mad passion for and I’ll get to the reason in a bit, is the more deadly return of the delusional and definitely lazy and irresponsible Maggi Mom. Now the Maggi Mom is a Nestle construct which is not new. She was introduced way back in 1983 when the noodles entered India. It was a unique marketing pitch at that time. The “two-minutes noodles" ad campaign introduced the “Maggi Mom" who was modern and liberated, not only cooking for her children but also being able to go to work while doing so. It was marketing genius. The Maggi Mom has taken lots of shapes since then—she’s the everywoman who cooks Maggi for her kids when they return from school or finish playing football, she’s even Madhuri Dixit togged out in leotards doing aerobics with her unsuspecting husband and kids and then feeding them instant oats noodles as healthy breakfast a.k.a. slow death by sodium and fat overdose.

The new Maggi ads which were released last week have brought back the Maggi Mom to tell us how wonderfully healthy Maggi is. The first ad, Maggi Balcony, has a young woman in her late 20s-early 30s, whose voice seems to have been dubbed by the woman who dubs for Paper Boat or who’s showing us that the side-effect of Maggi is a sore throat. She tells us how she was shocked when she heard Maggi was unsafe because her mother had always fed her Maggi and she had always fed her kid Maggi. Then she found out that “sab kuch sahi tha" (everything was right) in Maggi Noodles and they were safe. And she felt good that both she and her mother had been right.

The second ad has a mother—older and seemingly more middle class going by her bindi and pleated saree—tell us how Sonu, her androgynously named son, used to tiptoe home late at night from a party and make Maggi noodles. But she felt happy, because children should be given this much at least—I’m assuming she meant space and not trans fats and sodium—and at least she knew he wasn’t going to sleep hungry. When Maggi Noodles were withdrawn from the market, she was concerned whether she’d been feeding her son something unhealthy for so many years. But now that Maggi has got a clean chit, she feels like not only Maggi but even she has passed the test.

The third new ad—Maggi Sister—deviates from the Maggi Mom and crucifies the sister as well. A young woman tells us how after Maggi was banned for being unsafe, her disbelieving sister said she’d take away all her packets of Maggi and consume them. But she refused to let her sister do so. And sure enough, Maggi was given the green light and she was happy to find out she was wrong and her sister was right—that Maggi was indeed safe.

Now don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be happier for Nestle that the arbitrary ban against them has been lifted and that the charges placed against them have been proven to be utterly false. No company should have to go through what Nestle has had to face in the last few months. It is the worst kind of PR disaster and sales crisis. Their stock prices dropped, sales dropped, their factories were shut, people who worked in those factories were suddenly jobless. Instead of India suing them, Nestle should be suing India—for very high monetary damages. So, good for them that the charges levelled against them have been proven false.

But while Maggi noodles may be safe, the last thing they are is healthy. Which is why the Maggi Mom ads are so ridiculous. Yes, do rejoice at the fact that the noodles have lead within permissible levels, but there’s very little “goodness" in it. And you really shouldn’t be feeding it to your children.

Here are some facts. First, Maggi noodles don’t get cooked in two minutes. They took five minutes to cook. To be fair, so did Patanjali noodles.

But now to the goodness which the Maggi Mom has been telling us she’s ladling into her child’s plate forever.

A 100gm packet of Maggi Noodles has 402 calories of fat. One packet of noodles is 70gm in weight, so you’re getting over 280 calories from just one packet. You’re also getting 14.4 gms of fat in 100gm of noodles. Now to the sodium content, which Nestle kindly leaves out from the nutritional information on the pack. Various research has shown that there is a little above 1,200gm of sodium in 100gm of Maggi. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for an adult is 2,400mg. So one packet of Maggi noodles is giving you more than half the salt you require in a day. And that’s for adults. Also, one of my favourite ingredients in Maggi is Guar Gum. This is used as a thickening, binding and stabilizing agent in foods and beverages. It’s also often used for weight loss, because it expands in the intestine and makes you feel full and decreases your appetite. So it’s a great way for mothers to save on food costs for sure.

How any of this is healthy is beyond my understanding. And I really think any mother who thinks this is a great meal for her child should be locked up. Give it as a snack for sure, eat it as a strange treat if you’re so inclined, but don’t claim that it’s the perfect meal for mothers to feed their children. Be a good mother, make your child some puris and sabzi, or a sandwich or poha. If you don’t have the time, hire someone to cook these for your child.

Much to my sorrow, we can’t blame Baba Ramdev for selling us lies—only products without licenses. So if our kids grow up to be obese and sodium-and fat-rich, at least we know whom to blame—the Maggi Mom.

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