A politician making a gaffe at a public event is exactly the kind of thing that social media loves. So when Congress President Rahul Gandhi made the dubious claim on Monday that the Coca Cola founder started out selling shikanji (lemonade) in the US, while fast food giant Mc Donald’s founder first ran a dhaba, it was a recipe for jokes and memes on Twitter.
Gandhi, speaking at a national convention for Other Backward Classes leaders organised by the Congress, made those remarks ostensibly to imply that the Bharatiya Janata Party was not doing enough to improve the condition of the backward classes. “Everyone must have heard about Coca-Cola Who started this company, does anyone know?” the Congress president said. “He sold shikanji in America. He used to mix sugar in water. His talent was recognised, he was given money and started the Coca-Cola company.” He then seemingly rued the lack of such examples in India.
However, as several fact checks have shown, the carbonated beverage’s inventor, John Pemberton, arrived at the formula while trying to find recipes for opium-free painkillers. Pemberton was a pharmacist who joined the Army during the First World War. There, he sustained an injury, which led to an addiction to morphine. To cure his addiction, he started using his knowledge as a pharmacist to develop alternatives to the drug. The first recipe was a combination of alcohol and coca – the plant used to make cocaine – called French wine coca. The quest for an alcohol-free version led him to experiment with carbonated water, and the cola-based soft drink was born. He later sold the formula to American businessman Asa Griggs Candler, who developed it into the multi-national giant that it is today.
Mc Donald’s on the other hand, was founded by not one but two people – Richard and Maurice McDonald. The couple first started a hot dog stand, then a restaurant, and eventually decided to focus on burgers, milkshakes and french fries.
Gandhi’s misrepresentation of easily verifiable events inspired much humour on Twitter. It was a day of numerous references to shikanji.
Soon, people started offering alternative histories of the world’s biggest corporations.
Cartoonists also jumped into the fray, satirising the remarks in their columns on Tuesday.
Some Twitter users, however, found proof for Rahul Gandhi’s claims.