Parle G and why train journeys got a bit longer

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‘When you travel it’s not so much about reaching your destination but enjoying your journey.’

I came across this quote just as I sat to pen this post, and its relevance in the context of today’s post couldn’t be truer. For us in Mumbai, the local trains are more than just a mode of transport. They are a way of life. For all the bad press and media they’ve gathered over the years, there is no truer mirror to the Mumbai life than the train. Inside of it, you will see a number of characters. A motley group discussing how the stock market fell or rose that day, college boys discussing the mushy “you know she smiled at me” stuff, the bespectacled bloke engrossed in sending out his new presentation, and the stories can go on and on. The outside is no less a spectacle either. Just as the train leaves Churchgate, the iconic Wankhede stadium looms up – the venue of many a joyful and dejection-filled cricket matches, then comes the silent and brooding Mahim creek – one look and you can tell she nurses an anger within. And then, you have the distinct aroma of biscuits coming from the Parle G biscuits factory at Vile Parle.

I’ve been traveling to work by train, and over the past month or so, I’ve noticed the aroma missing. Somehow, I couldn’t figure out why. Last week, the newspapers solved the riddle. The iconic Parle G factory had apparently stopped production. Another one of the city’s iconic landmarks had bitten the dust, and I felt a bit of my childhood had been taken away.

I grew up in pre-liberalisation India. The India of Ambassador cars and Bajaj Scooters, the India of HMT watches and of course, the India of Parle G biscuits. Unlike some of the biscuits we get today, there is no ambiguity about Parle G – it is just a simple biscuit, like a biscuit should be. More importantly, they were easier on the pocket.

As a kid, I remember going to the grocer, and there would be the sunlight yellow butter paper covered biscuits peering out at you from the shelves. We’d carry them for the mid-morning lunch at school. My teachers would pull my ears, but I’ve been known to pop a biscuit or two into my mouth when hunger struck before the lunch break. I can’t even remember the number of times mum gave me a pack of Parle G biscuits when going off for a picnic or an outing as Plan B to the lunch she’d packed. That was quite some time ago. Life has rolled on ever since but Parle G remained just what it was; the biscuit of our childhood. In fact, one of the deepest regrets I have is missing out on a school field trip to the iconic Parle G factory due to an illness. Even today, after so many years, the joy of dunking a biscuit into the morning cuppa, to the extent that it softens up and breaks into the same tea cup is akin to winning a gold at the Olympics. Thankfully, the biscuits will continue to roll from other units of the Parle group.

The train journey to work remains the same. The train still stops for a while near the biscuit factory. Just that the familiar aroma is missing. But it remains in our hearts. Like Amitabh Bachchan said of his friend Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand.

Anand maraa nahi, Anand maarte nahin

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