Reflections from the backseat​

February 2002

As I have always said natural healthy products which keep you fit and well are never advertised because they don’t need to be. You cannot live without them

AFTER YEARS OF DRIVING MYSELF AROUND or jumping into trains, buses and cabs, I’ve earned the luxury of bring driven around. Especially because neither the car nor driver is paid by me, the ride in the back seat takes on a totally different flavour. One begins taking in the city and discovering it all over again. More importantly it allows for observation, analysis and introspection instead of a preoccupation with dodging traffic, cursing rash drivers and the thick black smoke emitted by buses and taxis powered by adulterated fuel.

One development which has struck me with considerable impact as I make my new discovery of Mumbai is that though the general belief is that we have entered the supermarket era, a large number of tiny stores have mushroomed through the stretch from north to south Mumbai. And all these stores seem to be selling the same assortment of goods.

Sadly for the general public these goods are all the possible soft drinks i.e aerated waters; every variety of wafers and snacks, and any and every kind of cookies and biscuits. Of course all of these FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods) are packaged in brightly coloured plastic, with each company trying to out do the other in grabbing consumer attention. Unfortunately not in taste or quality but in packaging since that seems to be the vital criterion on which a brand is bought or sold. Agreed you wouldn’t buy a product just for the outer cover once you have sampled it and not enjoyed it, but fortunately for corporates the millions of India make new bait quite good business sense.

Sadly most discussions relating to the merits and demerits of a brand centre around taste with little thought given to the value of a product to the human being i.e the nutrition that the product offers at the cellular level.

ALL CORPORATE MANAGERS ARE INTERESTED in is getting to the taste buds of the consumer and making her addicted to their brand. Much research goes into not just the addiction factor like caffeine in Coca-Cola or tobacco in gutka and ajinomoto in snacks, but also into repetition of words in advertising and also into making brands look glamorous by the models chosen to advertise them or via the lifestyle promoted in the advertisement.

As I’ve always said, natural healthy products which keep you fit and well are never advertised. Because they don’t need to be. You cannot live without them. If you begin to  have less of them and more and more of packaged products, you are doing your body and yourself a great disservice. Sometimes without realising it you begin eating a few packets of this snack and a few packets of that and you start drinking a bottle of this cola and a bottle of that. Before you know it your consumption of natural farm fresh foods has dropped and you start experiencing a drop in energy levels and ailments start surfacing. 

So vegetables, fruits, chakkis that grind your flour, nuts and seeds, never get advertised. Of course if a company decides to make big money on even a basic thing like atta (flour) then even our simple healthy chappati gets a thrashing. For example wheat will be bought at the lowest market price in bulk, stored for the year, fumigated (making it highly toxic) and then ground in a mill thereby making it less beneficial to us. But yes, it is conveniently available at every nook and corner. No more the hassles of buying wheat, cleaning it, taking it to the chakki to get it ground.

IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS NOT ONLY WAS WHEAT cleaned to eliminate stones it was also washed and dried. Does anyone really know how multinationals clean the grain or does anyone really care? Just because you see the final product in a fancy printed plastic pouch you believe it is as hygienic as you wish it to be. Just like there is nothing like cooking yourself as opposed to having a cook or eating out, nutritionally there is nothing like getting your wheat ground at the local chakki.

Yes, small wheat traders also use pesticides but not on the scale that big companies do because they have so much more at stake. So don’t get swayed by the size of a company. It doesn’t always stand for quality or health. Many compromises are made for the furtherance of business. In fact after ‘health’ has become a trendy subject for drawing room chatter, all big companies have jumped on the health band-wagon and even if their product is far from healthy they add a stalk of picturised wheat on the packaging to make it sound and look like the most nutritious food on earth, all the additives and preservatives notwithstanding.

If you value your health, my advice — for whatever it is worth — is to forget about mass marketed food products which even at the very base are far from healthy, utilising refined flour, poor quality salt and excess oil. And I’m only talking of biscuits. There is no end to the nonsense that goes on in the name of ‘natural’ — be it jams, pickles, squashes, sauces, snacks, drinks, juices etc. Even with nothing added, no tetra packaged juice can ever compare with fresh which boosts your energy levels and gives you that get up and go feeling. More on this next month. 

Kavita Mukhi

Kavita Mukhi

She is the mentor of The Farmers’ Store and the founder of The Bandra Farmers Market. She is a pioneer, evangelist and an over all inspiration and motivating force of our business. She is actively involved in steering the company up the organic path and also is the qualitative think tank and procurement authority behind all the products sold at The Farmers’ Store. Learn more about her on the About Us Page!

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