The Local Sabzi Waala

I hate shopping at the sabzi mandi. Take me to a conditioned supermarket with trolleys in tow and fancily arranged vegetables any day; even if it means struggling for parking space and standing in endless queues while looking at the candy bars perked pretty on the confectionary stand that seduce me to pick them and cheat on dear diet. I will go to the supermarket and pay above average prices for below average stuff wrapped in shiny cling wrap so that I can help XYZ Retail Inc. justify their costs of occupying real estate in my expensive city. But God forbid if I have to pay the sabzi waala even one extra paisa! I am going to make sure the trip justifies every dime by extracting that ‘thoda extra kaddipatta aur mirchi’ (some extra curry leaves and chillies) from him even if he is giving me fresh veggies.

The ‘I’ in the above paragraph depicts not just me but several urban Indians whose buying patterns have altered as supermarkets scrupulously take over from the sabzi waala bhaiyyas.

This is not an ‘organized retail hai-hai’ blog. It is just that I find the quality in the markets/hawker carts far better than the refrigerated sorts and yet we subject our gastric journeys to mediocrity.

The inspiration to write about this comes from a recent visit to the Matunga Vegetable Market, Mumbai. I have been there several times with my parents who, when in India, come to buy some exotic or South Indian produce that is not available in our area. It is one of the popular markets and also one of the first few places in the days of yore where one could find baby corn, iceberg lettuce, fresh Italian herbs, kiwis, etc. Several women frequent the place, fervently making purchases from the hawkers while lugging around several bags loaded with fruits and veggies.

As a child, I always sat in the car and waited for my folks while flipping through the heaps of comics that dad bought me from the kiosk outside Matunga station. This time however, my mother forced me to accompany her into the market – sheer horror I imagined. I do not like moist, narrow spaces and particularly avoid such scenarios. I reluctantly followed her and was surprised that it wasn’t all that bad. The array of shops actually made an appealing picture with the colourful and green sabziyan such that I couldn’t resist a few clicks. Glossy purple brinjals, bright peppers, slender winter carrots, crunchy beans, Cinderella carriage-like pumpkins – I wish eating them was as delightful as looking at them!

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I have always looked at buying vegetables as a boring chore. Turns out going inside the market gave me a glimpse to a side of me I totally wasn’t aware of – enjoying veggie shopping!

Travel needn’t just be about trips to far away locales. There are also those pit stops on our everyday routes that provide invaluable experiences – like the Matunga Market was for me. As my fellow blogger Wandering iPhone recently mentioned on an FB note, ‘You never know where inspiration and light is gonna come from and you don’t have to travel to find it. It’s right here, every day.’ I have believed in that for the longest time now and at times recall the smaller delights in the form of these jauntlets (mini jaunts =>;;;; jauntlets :)).

So, next time do try and make a little trip to the local mandi or an organic fair. You may not get loyalty reward points but you will definitely get a fresher platter of greens.

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Glossary (for the Hindi words)

Sabzi (pl. sabziyan) = Vegetable(s)

Sabzi Waala = Vegetable Vendor

Mandi = Market

Bhaiyya = literally means Brother. In this context – a term used to address vendors, hawkers, drivers, etc.

Hai-Hai = Booing

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