It has always troubled me. I look to eat, I love to drink. But one particular feeling always troubles me.
The feeling I get when I drink Maaza mango juice.
It started sometime after I finished my MBA. The first time it came to me it seemed pretty hazy. I was with a friend. He ordered a Coke and I ordered a Maaza juice. The bottles arrived. I put the straw in my mouth. I sucked in. The liquid rose in the straw. It touched my tongue. The next second, I was overcome with an enormously sad feeling. It was if something in the juice was triggering a repressed memory. That couldn’t be right. What could Maaza juice have to do with a sad memory? I took another sip. Surely it must be a mistake.
My mood worsened. I felt very sad, very lonely, isolated. In my head, I was running pulling out every drawer of memory that I had. I was checking the cabinets, the lofts, inside every box of memory I had to find something associated with the Maaza. But I was at complete blank.
Naturally, I blamed myself for this. I have known for a very long time that my memory has a 2 year time frame. Which means every new memory that I get comes with a “Best before 24 months” tag. I have noticed it all the time, when my friends talk about their childhood, their graduation, even stories that I’m a part of, I draw a blank. I have manage to perfect the art of laughing and nodding along at appropriate times. More to the point however, knowing that I had this manufacturing defect convinced me that it was an uphill battle to find out the source of my sorrow.
After that day, whenever an oppurtunity presented itself, I would order for the mango drink. I wanted to check if it was just Maaza, or was it just any mango drink. I tried Slice, Appy, Frooti in India and a host of drinks from Dubai where I had spent a majority of my childhood. When I drank all of them, I felt like I was enjoying a nice mango drink as I assume everyone does. But then I tried Maaza and the feeling was back again.
I have discussed this feeling with some of my friends and relatives. They’ve known me for a long time – maybe they know why Maaza makes me feel sad. Everyone drew a blank. I got some funny looks from a few of them – can’t blame them for it.
I thought and thought about it. The only time I could remember drinking a lot of mango juice was in school. For some reason when I was in school, I had decided that I liked my mango juice so much (I don’t remember if I was hooked to a brand), that I would have it every day for as long as I could. I drank a bottle of mango juice (Slice / Maaza) everyday for 3 months. Did something during that period make me feel sad? I didn’t think so. That was the ending of my school days. Everything was right with my world then. The feeling that I got when Maaza touched my lips was a feeling of sullen emptiness and defeat.
I didn’t know what to do about this. Should I ignore it forever? What option did I have? I was convinced that the secret to the feeling associated with Maaza lay deep in my childhood, and my memory did not have archives for so far back. In the book, Many Lives, Many Masters, a hypnotist uses hypnotic regression to find out facts about a subject’s past lives (hence the title). If someone could regress to their past lives through hypnosis, couldn’t someone take me back to my childhood in this life. I wrote to a leading hypnotist who simply replied that it was indeed possible that the taste was connected with something, but there was nothing that could be done to retrieve it.
The problem nagged me for 5 years. When I got married, I told my wife, D, about the story. I’m sure she thought I was a real but-job, but to her credit she managed to keep a straight face.
Then one day, D and I went to my parents’ place for a function. After the function got over, my parents, D and I settled into the sofa for a comfortable chat. The topic veered around to how I was quite adamant with my choices and I was always very difficult to convince. Here’s my dad’s next sentence to D-
“Kartik! He was always very difficult to convince. You know what, when we made him join school. He would refuse to go. The only way we could get him to go was by keeping a bottle of Maaza in his lunch-box”
As everyone around me laughed, time moved very slowly in my world. I clasped the arms of the sofa tightly till my knuckles hurt. My mind was racing back . A memory-box had been found somewhere under all the dust in the attic. The memory flooded in and covered me. I was no longer in my house. I was a small kid in front of my home, all dressed-up for school. I was crying. I could see my red plastic lunch box. I could see my water bottle. It was me going to school. I didn’t want to leave home. I didn’t want to leave my parents. I didn’t trust the world. I didn’t trust anyone outside my home. I didn’t trust the bus-driver or the kids in the bus. My parents who said they loved me were sending me away.
The food changed everyday, but everyday, the feeling of loneliness remained. Everyday, I drank my Maaza.
Have you ever felt anything like this? I have experienced a similar feeling with a few songs related to times in my life – is that something you have felt before too? Does it work with the other senses such as sound and smell as well?