You may have read a previous piece on salt. Well, this is another story about salt.
When I was in school, 1970 – 1980 life was simple, paranoia was minimum. I clearly remember that `short break’ which was between 11.00 am and 11.20 am was spent buying things to eat from the hawkers who set up outside the school gate. If we had more money we loved to buy imported chewing gums whose wrappers had a `transfer’ on the inside. You wet your hand and put the wrapper on it and, lo and behold, you had a tattoo. If we had less money we bought either something called `Bor’ [often spelt `Ber’ which is an widely popular berry also with the botanical name Ziziphus] or boiled green channa spiced up with a onion, coriander, salt chilli powder mixture and a dash of lime or, depending on the season a `Peru’ [Guava] with lashings of the salt chilli powder mixture or `Kairi’ [raw Mango] also with lashings of salt chilli powder mixture.
`Long break’ was devoted to playing in what was called the back garden, a large municipal ground which had been cleverly cordoned off so that only Campion [my school] Fort Convent and St Anne’s students could use it. Lunch had already been eaten, surreptitiously, during class [the illegality with the tension of being caught was such a thrill].
Today, I believe, all this has changed, drastically. Today children are taken to school by their parents. In my day if a parent came to school it was a matter of extreme embarrassment. It meant you had done something wrong in class and your parent was called for a bollocking by the Principal. This of course meant a subsequent bollocking at home for you. Today children are virtually locked into school. Getting inside a school is like entering Fort Knox. Everybody is paranoid about kidnapping, sexual molestation and what have you. What are the chances of a child in the 7th or 8th standard going for a walk during the lunch break today? Zero I would imagine.
Anyway, how many of you remember eating some tangy, sour fruit with salt chilli powder mixture? What about the simple pleasure of eating a `Bhutta’ [Corn] with salt chilli powder mixture smeared on it with a cut lime during the monsoon. Now with the hybrids `Bhutta’ is available year round. Remember the salt chilli powder mixture? Remember making it at home? Well I do and I am sure many of you all do too.
This afternoon while I was at the neighbourhood grocer `Modern Stores’ I saw two plastic bottles on the counter which caught my eye. I casually picked them up and found to my amazement they were flavoured salt with the rather silly brand name `Tata Salt Flavoritz’. A combination of flavour and flavour, how juevenile. I was most intrigued. I looked at them a little more carefully. This is a new product which is a brand extension of Tata Salt. Salt with Paprika [Chilli powder to you and me]. This cost a staggering Rs. 45 for 60 grams which translates to Rs. 750 per kilo. This is for salt and red chilli powder! If you bought a half kilo of salt which would cost about Rs 8 and a half kilo of chilli powder which would cost about Rs 150, the combined product would cost you just about Rs. 158. All you have to do is mix the salt and chilli powder, both perfectly normal ingredients which every one of us has at home. No rocket science.
Have we become so utterly lazy that we cannot mix two powders? Are yummy mummys now just so daft and brain damaged that they cannot mix these two things? Have we lost all sense of proportion that we need to pay Rs 750 per kilo for a powder that costs just Rs 158 if bought separately.
What is going on? I don’t blame the manufacturer. Obviously, some sort of market research and survey must have led Tata Chemicals to believe that there is a market for a product like this. In other words Tata Chemicals research clearly shows that lazy, daft, and thoroughly incompetent moms exist who cannot mix salt and chilli powder and, that there exists a market where this can be pre-packaged and sold at a huge profit. Is the company wrong? I certainly don’t think so. Have we lost all sense of reason. I think yes. Shame on us.