Goodbye, Dadaji: Why MDH’s Dharampal Gulati Will Remain India’s Favourtie Old Man


Goodbye, Dadaji: Why MDH’s Dharampal Gulati Will Remain India’s Favourtie Old Man

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Whether you live in India or abroad, “Mahashay” Dharampal Gulati is a part of every desi family. The iconic turban-clad owner of MDH Masala is smiling away at all of us, from a humble masala box placed on the kitchen shelf. We have all grown up seeing him on television ads with that familiar jingle – “Asli masale sach sach… MDH” – and big smile. He passed away on Thursday morning, at the age of 98.

According to reports, he was undergoing treatment at Delhi’s Chanan Devi Hospital for the past few weeks and suffered a cardiac arrest.

“Dadaji”, as he was fondly referred to, had become a pop-culture icon over the years. Not only was he the face of the brand but this happy-go-lucky persona is what won a billion hearts – his videos from weddings and functions often went viral. Never the one to shy away from a dance move or flaunting his infectious smile, he appealed even to younger audiences.

In the internet age, the biggest compliment is probably becoming a meme template. The King of Spices ruled the meme universe, with the running joke being that he was immortal. He would always be smiling in the face of hardship and tragedy. While the news of his death is sobering, the memories he has left everyone are heartwarming.

Tributes poured in from across India as everyone remembered India’s favourite old man. While the Deputy CM of Delhi Manish Sisodia referred to him as a “lively soul”, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described him as an inspiring personality who dedicated his life for society. “He was a shining beacon of India’s entrepreneurial journey who turned #MDHSpices into an iconic brand,” remarked Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Journalist Gargi Rawat called it another blow in 2020, describing Gulati as an “iconic face for all of us”. One could show his picture to anyone from any age group in the country and they will instantly reply “MDH Uncle!”

Author Nandita Iyer shared a video of his, where he was dancing at an event celebrating 100 years of MDH Masalas. He was 96 then, and his zest for life aptly visible.

“We jokingly used to say he never gets old, he is immortal. But sadly our MDH chacha has left us,” pointed out one social media user.

And of course, there were respectful and wholesome memes, paying a fitting tribute to one of India’s most known faces.

Dharampal Gulati was a fifth grade dropout. His father Chuni Lal had started a small shop in Sialkot, Pakistan way back in 1919. After Partition, Gulati moved to a shop in Karol Bagh Delhi and opened 15 factories supplying 1000 dealers in India. What started with a small shop is now a ₹1500-crore empire which runs the masala company, about 20 schools, and a hospital.

Gulati was India’s highest-paid consumer products CEO for the year 2017, taking over ₹21-crore as salary, and outearning celebrity honchos like Adi Godrej and Vivek Gambhir. It is said that the second generation entrepreneur would diligently make rounds of factories, markets, and dealers including on Sundays until he was satisfied everything was in order. Last year, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award.

Goodbye Dharampal Gulati ji. Keep smiling at us from heaven above.