Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Reliance Fresh Veggie Mall at Godhra

This rumour is doing the rounds that Godhra, Gujarat will soon have a Reliance Fresh veggie mall. People say that it's a good thing, it'll break the monopoly of the local sabzi mandi traders, bring down veggie prices and benefit consumers coz veggie malls like Adani and Subheeksha sell vegetables cheap.

The point is that consumers always benefit. And Reliance will replace the existing monopoly of the mandi with one of its own. It'll buy veggies at higher prices from farmers for the first year or two, driving out the sabzi mandi guys who don't have the cash reserves to compete with this mammoth, and capture the market. After driving out other big buyers, it'll lower the prices it offers farmers who won't have alternative buyers. If Adani and Subheeksha and Big Bazaar don't have the scope to venture into a small town like Godhra, Reliance will hike up consumer prices to the levels they were at in sabzi mandi time, profiting from both ends.

I don't know if all this will come true, but I hate the thought of a glass-cased, lit-up, air-conditioned,plastic-trayed mall. The point of a market/bazaar is that it's where rich and poor, big and small, urban and rural, basti (slum) and apartment, interact- haggle, quibble, say 'oops', or 'rasta deejiye' or 'zara hatiye' or 'those look 3 days old'. That's why I hate malls in America and that's what sellers at farmers' markets try to recreate very deliberately, engaging in somewhat contrived conversations, fully aware that consumers come to them for the whole 'alternative' experience and the human contact. Malls allow the rich and the middle class to cocoon themselves from the poor, to pretend they don't know how the other half lives.

Ah! Now I know why those trips to Schnucks and Target sometimes made me sick, apart from getting stifled from the air-conditioned shuttle rides.
Please leave your comments if you read my posts. I don't think anyone reads my blog, the posts of a leftist intellectual-in-the-making.


Then is when Emaad, my nephew was three months old. We'd coaxed Basheeran Bua, 75 year old expert dai (midwife) to do Emaad's maalish (massage) and bath, coz we were terrified of dropping him/choking him/giving him pneumonia if we did. So Bua agreed to climb down the three floors from her house in winter despite her creaking knees and walk over to our place to give Emaad his baby maalish.

Basheeran Bua comes every morning at 10, gives Emaad an oil massage and bathes him in a big red tub. Basheeran Bua is Rajasthani, bold and liberated, and tells me she'll dance at my wedding (if and when it happens, right now it looks more like IF rather than when), breaking into a raunchy number about a thaanedar (policeman), swinging her hips and clapping her hands- quite a sight.

One day in the middle of maalish Bua catches Emaad playing with his penis. Bua says, 'Arre, abhi nahin! Isse bachaake rakho jab tak tum ikkis ke ho jao apni biwi ke liye!' Emaad stares at Bua, understanding her gist, drops his hand quickly, turns his head away and stares fixedly at the dustbin on the side, feigning ignorance.
We're all very amused, the women in the house, outnumbering men five to two. Oh, and the poor kid's already got properly socialised. Haven't caught him doing it again.

Gol gappe

My weakness for gol gappe (this spicy Indian roadside snack which has spiced water in a crisp hollow bread) has given me a bad tummy the second time in fieldwork. Love them so much they're where my blog title comes from. Part of the urge I know comes from living in the United States where you don't have much street food, and longing for India, and trying to connect with the market/bazaar experience of eating gol gappe stupidly through cardboard boxes of puris bought from the Indian store. Consuming gol gappe was like consuming India, filling myself with it. Feel this trememdous urge to eat them every time I see a pakodi laari in Delhi or Dahod. Dunno why gol gappe wale in Delhi fleece people, like it's the most exotic thing in the world, at 2 rupees a puri, sometimes 3. Except that they're very yum, whether at Bengali Market, UPSC or Lajpat Nagar. Another thing that's so typical to Delhi- a fat black dhoop on the counter, so you're choking on the smoke and stuffing yourself with gol gappe at the same time. Dahod's pakodis have an M.P. touch- they're sour and have ragdaa, which is hot chhole (chick peas), spiced and steaming that break deliciously into your mouth with the cold water. Dahod's 'pakodis' come at two for a rupee so they're full paisa vasool.