Colas, Eggs, Doodh: What Were Your Favourites in 1980s India?

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There’s something about food that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. For one, it brings us together, for eating is a community and social ritual. It’s time spent together. Now imagine spending time with family and friends munching on shared memories of simple snacks, sweets and savouries that we were raised on. It’s a topping of nostalgia that’s too delicious to pass up.

An advertisement for Campa drinks
An advertisement for Campa drinks

So here’s to sipping on Campa Cola and loudly chomping on crispy potato chips, as we celebrate the memories we associate with some of the foods and beverages that we grew up with.

And that’s exactly what we did at a 50th birthday party, recently. It brought back a flood of memories, of how our mothers would make jars of Rasna for us and our friends, and we would wolf down Gits Gulab Jamuns.

An advertisement for Kissan Tomato Ketchup
An advertisement for Kissan Tomato Ketchup

Remember relishing homemade samosas and pakoras dipped with joy in thick tomato ketchup, where the advertisements promised ‘all tomato no pumpkin’?

At these kiddies’ parties, Uncle Chips were served generously, to be washed down with cold drinks that would arrive in wooden crates. At the end of the evening, the kids would return home with multi-coloured, boiled sweets, yesteryear’s version of party favours!

That India was one where the middle class would allow treats for their families only on special occasions – and birthday parties topped that list.

The television set was how we learnt of the newest products on the shelves, and we would work hard at school to be rewarded with those special treats. Instant noodles was one of them and a one-off meal on holidays. Of course, there was always that one child in class whose lunch box would be filled with noodles. And even though they set into a gooey amorphous block by lunch time, we all shared the treat with great joy.

Doing Our ‘Duty’

In those days, the government urged the common man to support the growing local food industry and we would happily enjoy our daily eggs, singing along to the catchy NECC jingle, ‘Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande’.

Breakfast time meant eggs, bread, butter and jam. And Amul butter was always the centre piece on the breakfast table. Almost every household had these huge jars of standard red jelly, which masqueraded as jam. We adored that sweet stuff so much that we would eat more rotis and parathas than usual if we were offered a dollop of jam.

When the Milk Board encouraged us to drink milk, with the catchy song, ‘Doodh doodh doodh doodh, doodh hai wonderful! Pee sakte hai roz glassful!’ suddenly daily milk time became a ceremony of sorts. Dinner table conversations also began to revolve around a new, healthier cooking oil in the market and we imagined that eating puris fried in that oil would enable us to do those marvellous cartwheels just like the boy in the advertisement!

Tea time was changing, and the tea brand a household used became part of their identity. Strong Red Label tea would be considered an instant pick-me-up. The image of a tired young lady being rejuvenated by a cup of perfect Taaza tea sold the beverage as more than just a morning drink.

Parle Glucose Biscuit Advertisements
Parle Glucose Biscuit Advertisements

Biscuits were essential to the narrative. The perfect Glucose biscuit for everyone, the salty snack for the young, and of course, those perfectly balanced sweet and salty crackers. Parle and taken the market by storm and they flooded the perfect packaged food for all to consume. Sensitive to the price bracket, they were market leaders.

Cold Comfort

We all had our favourite cold drink of the time. To date, at every party, the resident Gold-Spot fan club unites and discusses how its going out of production was one of the biggest losses to the Indian beverage industry. The hiss of a glass bottle and the fizz it released was the best thirst-quencher ever.

The promise of ‘pure Alphonso juice’ and the best ‘lemonade’ was perfectly met by bottles from the Duke’s factory and no one has come even close to matching both the quality and taste of these two.

Different packaging of the mango drink, Frooti, over the years
Different packaging of the mango drink, Frooti, over the years

The stories of our favourite foods and beverages are countless and memories even more. Let us spend a week filled with the love and nostalgia for everything food- and beverage-related. Share with us your favourite food stories. How you miss your favourite candy bar or how you have a treasured memory attached to a certain beverage. How it made a difference to that first date, that perfect report card or even the only candy that could cheer you up.

And, we have to ask, did you ever unlock the biggest kiddies’ secret of all time: “Melody itni chocolaty kyun hai?”

This article is part of our Heritage in our Homes campaign, in collaboration with Jugaadopolis. If this story has stirred up personal memories, now get a chance to share your own stories with our readers. Please write to us at

contactus@livehistoryindia.com

with your stories, a brief bio to describe who you are and any relevant images. The ones selected by the LHI Editorial Team shall be compiled and featured on our website.