Travelling in an air-conditioned car through the chaotic traffic between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad for six days a week leaves me wanting for fresh air. Thank God for small mercies, Gandhinagar, the town where I have been staying for almost 30 years, offers purest and the greenest environment that any city in India can ever offer. Hence I make it a point to explore the wide, open and clean roads of Gandhinagar on my Royal Enfield every Sunday and let the gust of fresh air evoke sweet memories of this hometown.
On one such trip last Sunday, I passed through our ever famous, Laxmi Bakery in Sector 21. Laxmi Bakery is the oldest and most popular Bakery in Gandhinagar and at any given point of time throughout the year it is swarming with its loyal customers. Gandhinagar is a microcosm of about 2 lakh well-educated and tech-savvy bourgeois and those who have settled here for eons know anyone and everyone in the town. Hence of course, everyone knows Kishorebhai, the owner of Laxmi Bakery and Kishorebhai knows everyone!
The same old logo, pretty gross; the same old fascia and the name that does not have any remote connect with the business they are in to. They do not have a home delivery model, neither have they given any credit to anyone in all these years. The Bakery is just an old shop, not even modern, nor is it spic-and-span. I mean, it has not changed an iota ever since I have been in Gandhinagar. Still it can beat the best bakery in town some 100 times over. Gets me thinking as a branding professional, what is it that works for Kishorebhai? I mean none of the fundas that I believe and preach are applicable to him and still he is the most successful Bakery owner in this town! Well, this will be an interesting topic to dwell upon in my next article.
As I was passing through Laxmi bakery, I was briefly engulfed by the nostalgia and felt like stopping by to say hi to Kishorebhai. Fortunately at 8.30 in the morning Kishorebhai was not very busy with a lot of customers. After exchanging the pleasantries I asked, ‘Aur kya chaal raha hai Kishorebhai?’ He promptly replied with a smile, ‘Bas tamara jeva mitro na ashirvad che.’ (Nothing much, just the blessings of friends like you). I was relieved that at least yaha pe to Fog nahi chal raha hai!
Standing at the sales counter my thoughts went back to yesteryears when Laxmi Bakery used to send Laaris (Hand Carts) to various sectors of Gandhinagar to sell its products. This hand cart was neatly painted in beige and they announced their arrival by ringing a bell. It had glass cabinets that showcased fresh-from-the-oven breads, buns, bhaji pav breads, tutti-frutti breads, rusk, biscuits, occasional pineapple pastry… It also had eggs and above all, the most priced item of our time – Cream Roll! It came with an option of white or pink cream. Priced I think at Rs. 5 apiece, they were an absolute treat. You actually had to earn them – behave, do your homework on time, do household chores, keep your room clean, not fight with your elder brother, eat all vegetables… and then Mom would flash that Rs. 5 currency note, once in a week, so that you can fulfill your yearning. Which colour Cream Roll was it that I had last week? One should dare not repeat.
I snapped back to the present and asked Kishorebhai, ‘Do you still have those Cream Rolls?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied.
‘Do a lot of people still ask for it?’ I asked.
‘Nah Amitbhai, it’s not in demand anymore,’ he replied with a hint of indifference to the impact it must have had on his business.
I wondered why? Anyways, I ordered for 3 Cream Rolls to be packed. Unfortunately, I did not have choice of colours as he only had them in white cream. One for my daughter, one for my niece and one for myself!
Engrossed in the yesteryears, I reached home after some time with a triumphant look on my face. I asked my kid and niece to guess what have I got them from Laxmi Bakery. Despite all possible hints, they failed. No, maybe I failed.
However, after disclosing the product after a brief teaser, they seemed totally unexcited. Upon my insistence they tried a bite of my dear Cream Roll, only to reject the product in its entirety with certain disdain the very next moment.
My world came crashing down. It was Kishorebhai’s defeat. No maybe it was my defeat.
What the heck? What is happening? Cream Roll does not have any takers anymore? Is it dying or is it already dead?
Guess it is true of a lot of products or services or traditions or rituals or behaviours of yesteryears that are quickly fading with the contemporary times.
I mean where is that Rasna Soft Drink Concentrate, which we all used to get together and make it as a part of ritual? Locked away in the refrigerator, it was given to you only once when you cried the hardest.
That Pepsi Cola Candy (Slush), which came in Orange, Kala Khatta, Cola flavours and did cost only 25 paise for a smaller plastic pack and 50 paise for the bigger one.
The count is endless and a news of dismay for a person like me.
RimJhim, Campa Cola, Gold Spot, Canada Dry, Phantom Cigarette, Havaban Harde, Swad Hajme ki Goli, Big Fun and Fusen Bubble Gum, Chiclets, Kismi Chocolate, Mango Bite, Coffy Bite, Rol-a-cola, RoohAfza, Crax, Peppy, Nintendo Video Games, MRI Tennis Ball, Charminar Cigarettes, Illustrated Weekly of India, Indrajal Comics, Boroline, Hero Pen, Chelpark Ink, Rajdoot, Bajaj Scooters, Chal meri Luna, Cherry Blossom, Ambassador, Premier Padmini – Fiat, Contessa, HMT, Dyanora TV, Khaitan Fans, Woodwards Gripe Water … endless list, all lost in oblivion. All a continuous source of nostalgia; reminder of simple yet contented life!
So much so that the simple games like marbles, kho-kho, hide and seek, gilli danda, bhamardo (spinning top), seven tiles, statue, hopscotch, jump rope, chor-sipahi, langdi, trading bollywood cards…are on the verge of extinction.
Unfortunately, there are no takers of these games in urban India, maybe they have been confined to rural pockets. Most of the urban children are not outdoor types. They are perennially engrossed in phones, laptops, and iPads or somewhere fulfilling the dire wishes of desperate parents of getting beyond 90+ percentile.
I would be tempted to write an epitaph for my dear Cream Roll, but I guess I am still not giving up hope. Nostalgia can be encashed; nostalgia can be a very credible and authentic source of reinventing few of those yesteryear products or games or traditions that cannot only appeal to the Generation X, but the Y – the millennials and the Z – the post-millennials as well.
Royal Enfield is a classic example of such a revival. Take in case Paper Boat, which has focused on nostalgic appeal, however has got traction form all generations, especially Generation Z! Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha are trying best to re-invent their appeal to the Z. To overcome the MSG and Lead crisis Maggie used the nostalgia route to great advantage and it worked, and how! Or for that matter Caravan Magazine, India’s first long-form narrative journalism magazine, which was lost into nothingness, has been revived (With likes of William Dalrymple, Ramchandra Guha, Fatima Bhutto, Carol Schaeffer… giving their expert contributions).
A lot of these faded brands continue to have a great recall and there is a good positive perception about these brands in general. There is a believable story about these brands and I think they still hold a future if re-packed according to the current market needs. Somewhere there is a market and somewhere revival of those yesteryear products is just round the corner.
Hope to see Cream Roll in a newer and a better avatar very soon!