I might get a few eye rolls for saying this, but of all the beautiful things that exemplify the culture and identity of India, if I were to pick just one that represents it completely, it would be a biscuit called Parle-G. Created in 1939 by a confectionery maker in Mumbai called Vile Parle, Parle-G was the original “energy bar” made to deliver a quick dose of sugar (the G in the name apparently stood for glucose) to kids and adults alike. Interestingly enough, in perhaps one of the most genius marketing campaign ever, after India’s independence in 1947, Vile Parle heavily marketed the biscuit to promote patriotism by offering the citizenry a non-British branded biscuit to dunk in their next cup of tea. To say it worked, is an understatement.
In other words, no matter your social class, no matter your pedigree, no matter how much money you have, and no matter where you live in this world, if you are an Indian who has lived since 1939, you have eaten and loved a Parle-G biscuit, which to this day can be bought with loose change you might find in the couch cushions.
The other thing beside taste and cost, that has remained virtually unchanged since it’s inception in 1939, is the packaging. My grandparents and parents remember the biscuit being sold with the same picture of a baby, with those chubby fingers and a mop of dark hair on the head, looking as if to say, where’s my biscuit!
To make sure the newest member of our family knows his Indian-ness, we introduced the biscuit recently to our 8-month old Ajay. And after documenting this historic moment in his life, I looked back at the pictures and couldn’t help but do a double-take of the packaging.
Hey Vile Parle, if you ever need a new baby model, I’ve got one, right here! And we are willing to accept payment in biscuits! ; )