Parsley and Thyme

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A day at “Reliance Fresh”

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If chocolate can enhance the mood for some, then it is the sight and smell of fresh vegetables that does it for me.

As a little girl, I remember going to the local market with my mom and dad, and wishing that they would let me bargain over the clusters of lovely green beans, creamy cabbages, carrots in sprightly orange, and loads of other vegetables that were oh-so-worth lusting after. Time just seemed to melt into the background when we were in the vegetable market. It was a place where families and local vendors “bonded”. You could always see buyers huddled over assortment of vegetables lamenting about “rising” prices and the vendors about their “diminishing” profits. And at the end of a highly heated negotiation, a sale would result in a relieved smile on both sides and the buyers moving on to the next vendor like buzzing bees moving onto the next flower for nectar.

Perhaps most of it remains the same even today in old Bangalore. But the monarchical rule of the vegetable market is slowly fading. Shopping for vegetables is no longer confined to a visit to the friendly market vendor, thanks to the growing super-market culture. I am all for it too. And why not? When you can get the same variety of vegetables at cheaper prices, weighed with precise digital weights, it feels only natural to adopt the new system. But alas, a visit to one of the extremely popular super-markets leaves me cold and disappointed.

There is no doubt that the system has been completely modernized. But the fruits and vegetables seem to be crying out for one last breath of fresh air as they near their graves. The air inside is stale too, almost threateningly viral. As I wrinkle my nose at the drooping greens, yellowed tomatoes, dry clusters of beans and rotting capsicums, I wonder how the people around me continue to scoop handfuls of veggies into their precious plastic covers with such excitement. The women seem gleeful as they push they overflowing handcarts to the billing sections. And not to be outdone, their menfolk fish out their wallets, chests swollen with pride as they pay up for the booty. At the front of the queue I am in, a couple of children bring in some last minute additions – more rotten fruits – the ones that the parents gratefully acknowledge missing out and thump on the counter. My aggression is slowly building up as I hold my purchase – a single bottle of mineral water – for which I stand behind hordes of enthusiastic shoppers. I stand for a whole 15 minutes and still show no signs of moving ahead in the queue. To add to the discomfort of the soaring inside temperature, my body heats up further with frustration as I see the billing clerk fumbling alternately between lack of spare change and inability to count the “sodexho” coupons that are thrown across at him. Yessir, he cannot afford to smile at a deal as the next person in the queue is always ready to toss a challenge at him. Moreover, he is just an “employee” with no sense of ownership, he only has to work fast enough to keep an irritated store manager at bay.

A full 20 mins up without any progress and I have had it. I toss the water bottle into the nearest empty casket and struggle my way out of the crowd into the outside world. A whiff of fresh air hits me as I step outside, and the relief is over-powering. I walk over to the my old friend, the local market, just adjacent to this mechanical supermart. And I catch a dry grin from the lady who always sells me the lovely crisp greens. Was that out of sarcasm or forgiveness ? Well, who cares – I am happy to be back.

Written by Kanchana

April 21, 2008 at 11:06 am

Posted in Shopping

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