Schooling, hostel life, rush days, snacks, celebrated moments, painful times, killing the boredom, the first streak of culinary independence, traveling, and many more hungry junctures of a typical Indian life are fondly entangled in the ‘2-minutes’ phenomenal strands called Maggi. It lifts your mood when you are sad, invigorates you when you feel like giving up, and honestly, I get a sort of mental clarity when I am confounded. Through long days, fleeting evenings, and tired nights, I guess most of us thrived on this sumptuous quickie until just a month back when the unforgiving lightening struck the Maggi lovers’ world. The soul food is being tried for some of its ingredients and has been phased out at least for now. Well, let’s face it, the wipe out is indefinite. For the backpackers like me, it’s a food scarcity kind of situation. Maggi has been my committed travel companion, supper motivation, and a glorious reward that would keep me going. I mean seriously, such an amazing food invention! It's so designed for the wanderers – quick & easy to cook and gratifying to eat. There have been times when I sustained my travel majorly on Maggi. I remember one such eventful Nag Tibba trip with a couple of friends of mine. Hadn’t it been for Maggi, we would have literally starved!
Around 2 years back, I with my office colleagues Ritu, Armaan (the most experienced trekker of us all and therefore blindly obeyed on such trips), and Kushal, (we usually travel together), decided to take up a weekend (3 days) trek to Nag Tibba. We had been hearing about it and were contemplating over it. The FB pictures were the trigger and we started working at our plan. Nag Tibba is a winter trek. The mention is justified for the weather uncertainty it is laced with and the fact that we encountered the climate rage!
Our preparations included packing clothes, cameras, cosmetics/toiletries, trekking tools, tents, grocery, and the salvager Maggi. Thankfully, the group’s dietary ‘needs’ are aligned. We want our ‘Maggi shots’ at least once every second day. Anyway, bundled with the necessities, maps, and helpful tips we were ready for our voyage.
The musketeers set out for Dehradun in the month of Feb. Reaching there we found the weather was rainy. Determined, like soldiers, we proceeded. Everything went as planned (the best it could go with a motley group) until the end of Day 1. The first day on a trek is usually a heavy one, especially if you are subjecting your body to this sudden physical grind, like the exercise haters Ritu and me were doing. So, we were kind of aghast and irritated. For moral boosting, we started craving for our Maggi dose, but Armaan kept it as a reward for reaching the summit the next day. Dejected and choice less, we agreed. After having some decent food (but not Maggi, mind you) we cooked, the team retired to the tents.
Armaan projected the next day as the toughest and longest. Ritu and I still politely reminded him of our Maggi deprivation and his last evening promise. We started the trek early morning. Man, this was some 2 kms of steep climb. Phew! But after reaching, voila, we discovered snow! What ensued was a uniform, natural lunacy. The symptoms included running around, rolling on the white ground, hurling snowballs at each other, stumbling, and yeah, falling flat on the face. After some time, we regained sanity and trudged further. By around noon, at the Nag Mandir, we got to know that the camping site is laden with snow and setting up tents there is impossible. Now what? With us freaking out (girls love to do that. Any issues?), a very calm Armaan decided to have the lunch there itself. We needed something easy, requiring minimum resources, and quick to cook, since it was just a brief, makeshift arrangement and we were fast running out of time. “Maggi!” was the chorus, with of course grins. But, the water we could manage was quite compromised in quality. It had its own unpleasant smell and taste. However, then that’s the learning of traveling - be flexible. Soon, I started preparing Maggi. After a long, sweaty, tiring journey in the wilderness, the mere smell of this soul food cooking would yield orgasmic highs. Kunal served the delectable meal. Interestingly, the Maggi spice mix took over the water stink. That was a strategic and tasty rescue by this wonder snack at that stuck moment. If it was not available, we probably would have to stay hungry, since nothing else was feasible. This could have been a fix situation with the hungry trekkers giving up. Because of the mineral loss due to sweating, salted and palatable food is very, very crucial when you trek. The need is so overpowering that you start dreaming about it. The issue is you cannot keep too heavy stock of provision. You need to travel, rather climb light. Maggi would meet all the requirements. It is light to carry, the easiest to cook, fills, but keeps you comfortable, and is yummy. That’s one key reason why travelers prefer it.
We now needed to rush for the summit and come back to the base camp before its dark. Through knee-deep snow, slips, twists, bruises, and a total drain, we reached an all white zone. Incredibly and infinitely white I’d say. Way better than the earlier sight. At that point, it was like peace and you are one and the ultimate! After an intense emotional pause, madness resumes of course. Men lost their mental balance more this time. They took off their clothes, I mean shirts, to show I do not know what! To whom? Go figure. I really hate gender biases (all right, all right, read advantages). Bloody selfish perverts! After around 15 minutes of retardation, we hastened back.
At the base camp, we checked our kitchen supplies and found that we could manage only supper and the breakfast for the next day. Irrespective of the genuine problems, at that time, eating was a definite priority. Dinner was secondary and seemed compromisable. But, Armaan took a call that dinner and breakfast plans will stand. Evening snacks will be adjusted. “Maggi” was the easy and preferred choice yet again. This time Ritu cooked. With Maggi, you just cannot go wrong. It tasted heaven again. I cannot forget the salt kick I got that day. I thank Maggi with all my heart for being there. It restored our zest and honestly interest too, at that ‘dull’ moment. The dinner and some ‘forbidden intakes’ followed. We then retired to sleep.
The next day we climbed down and loaded ourselves on the bus back to Delhi. When recollecting our trip even now, the 2-minute noodles continue to have an affectionate space. I think most travelers have the similar Maggi pull. I guess that’s because the likes of us, living on the edge are passionate beings. We cannot really forego the emotional highs of a pleasure source even if it’s forbidden. That’s why we are adventure freaks. We go, touch death, and come back to life. The gain is the ‘high’ you get by appreciating a working body, mind, and heart. I used to connect with Maggi somewhat similarly. A ban on this staple diet is surely the harshest for the travelers and those spinning on tight schedules. With that thought, I am packing my bags for the stunning Hampta Pass trek, because travel I must. This is my first trip without the magic food. I wish we are able to find something as apt to fill the gap. All this while, I hope to get my curvaceous pal back soon too. Until then, the Maggi lacuna sadly stays!