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!

9 thoughts on “Vegetable Shopping”
  1. Yes.. retails cannot match the freshness and feeling of buying it from a ‘sabzeewala’.

    But guess the convenience of having eveything under one roof has to take over. In UK we have special farmer markets where we can have farm fresh vegetables. The older generation still prefers it over chains like Tesco and Sainsburys

  2. Compelely agree with the later part of this post…I love the look and feel of the Indian subzi mandi. I just hope they can co-exist with the upscale retail stores and don’t completely disappear in the coming years.

    Re: Kanda, Bhaaji and Batata. Haha, having come to Pune from Delhi, I must say I had to re-learn Hindi all over again! Mumbaiyas have butchered both Hindi and Marathi πŸ™‚

  3. I don’t think I can ever bring myself to say Aloo and Pyaaz….Its always kaanda batata for me…. πŸ˜€ There’s a charm in dealing with the bhajiwalas/waalis that can never be replicated anywhere else πŸ™‚

  4. See, this is what happens when you silly non-chronic-cooking types try to get vegetables. The key is to start picking out the good ones, by which point the sabzeewaalah notices you and hands you a basket. Then you just tell him how much you want without naming it, and he’ll weight it out. Never hurts to pick too much of the good stuff, that makes the guy respect you, and only throw out the not-so-good extra.

  5. Hey thanks for the heads up about the HT mention. Could you email me a link if you don’t mind? I can’t seem to find it πŸ™‚

  6. @ Ankur: Which would be the UK equivalent of the sabzi-mandis I guess..

    @ Shantanu: We like to call it bhelpuri, sir.. πŸ˜€

    @ Renovatio: Heard and understood, as befits a rookie!

    @ shub: I just heard it might be available on the epaper. It was under the ‘Blogosphere’ section.

    @ Sense: Thengyu, thengyu! Kem cho, yenna yepudi, kemon achche, wossup and all that…

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