Once, during my winter vacations, my grandmother sent me downstairs to buy some vegetables. I knew nothing about veggies of course but her reassuring face hovered above from the balcony as she said she would point out the fresh ones from the rest. So I skipped down the stairs to catch the vegetable cart. Once I got to the bottom, I realized that he had started wheeling the cart away and was already at the end of the block. As I climbed up again, my grandmother chided me
Why didn’t you call out for him to stop?
But I did! I kept shouting out ‘Bhajiwala! Bhajiwala!‘ but he didn’t stop!
Oh you silly child! They are called Sabziwalas!
What? But he is a Bhajiwala, why should I call him anything else?
That’s just to you silly Mumbai people. Look he is back! Go get me some potatoes and onions
So off I went again. I returned in a huff bearing the bulging bags of potatoes and onions.
Your Delhi people don’t know anything! I asked him for ‘Aadha kilo kanda-aadha kilo batata‘ and he looked at me like I was an alien! I had to pick up each vegetable and stand around till he figured I needed bags to carry them up!
My grandmother just smiled and told me that I was looking for aloo (not batata) and pyaaz (not kanda). I gave up the argument. How do Delhiites ever manage to eat?! I suppose the problem is solved by the new retail habit that my family and friends have acquired.
Big air-conditioned stores that stock multiple varieties of neatly labeled ‘baby potatoes’ and ‘shallots’. To be loaded into shiny plastic baskets and dumped into shop-name-bearing bags. With a smart uniformed assistant to ring up the cash register.
But can they match the sheer aesthetics of this?
Wah…muuh mein paani aa gaya! And that’s the same thing in Hindi or Bambaiyya!