Saturday, 29 December 2012

To market, to market

In an age of hypermarts - its refreshing to see that in some corners of India the good old-fashioned weekly markets still exist.

For most of the week, a largish open space in the middle of the Bharat Heavy Plates & Vessels (BHPV) residential compound is just an empty space.  But come Thursday afternoon and everything changes.

Merchants bearing their wares stream in.  Veggies.  Fruits.  Fish.  Bric-a-brac.  Its all here.

We had gone to buy shrimp.  Thatha haggled fiercely with the hard-bitten fisherwoman before the price for the shrimp was fixed and given to the lady behind her to clean for a small fee.  A handsome lot of crab was also purchased.

The shrimp that you see below on the left made it safely home where they were transformed by Ammamma into a delicious prawn biryani and a mouth-watering prawn curry.  But more on that later.

The BHPV weekly market is obviously not only about fish.

I had our new Sony cyber-shot with us.  A Christmas gift we gave ourselves.  And I just couldn't help clicking.

The photos will speak for themselves.

If in the middle of all the buying and selling and haggling and plain wandering around, you take just the tiniest fraction of interest in the vendors themselves - you quickly see just how precious each person is.  Each one in that sea of people has their own personality. In the midst of money changing hands, there are some bonds of relationship as well.

Here a vegetable vendor has a small cup of tea - and shares a laugh with a neighbour.

I was intrigued to see a man dressed in a black shirt and dhoti driving a motor cycle with bags of batteries, CFL light bulbs and what looked like old fan regulators wend his way through the fruit sellers.  Every now and then he would stop and a vendor would accept one of this man's wares.

The man's clothing show that he is a devotee of the Ayappa diety in Kerala.  His trade?

He is a light renter.

He offers a complete solution to vendors who wish to operate after sun-down.

There are no public lights on this open ground - and so he offers his battery / inverter / light bulb set on rent.

I talked to a banana seller afterwards and asked how much it cost to rent the light-battery combo.

'Rs. 30 per day'

We left well before sundown, puttering on the scooter back to Ammamma and Thatha's home in Tungalam village.

So we did not get to see the elegant lighting solution in action.

We left considerably heavier than we came - along with the prawns and crab our bag was heavy with tomatoes, radish, potatoes, onions, spinach, a papaya, bananas, and beans.

Plus three sticks of chalk for the kids to mark hop-scotch patterns on the terrace of Ammamma and Thatha's home.

Today we feasted on the prawn and crab.

Ammamma worked away today.

We had a heavy breakfast of upma and banana, potato and onion pakoras.

And then an amazing a lunch of crab curry, prawn biryani and Ammamma's amazing curried prawns.

We are being feted like kings.

Ammamma has a secret ingredient to all her food.

Its called 'love.'

Tomorrow we fly back to Thane.

We will be missing the luxuries of a semi-rural life.  But even more than the prawns and the crab, and the quaintness of their weekly market, we will be missing them.

Our week has passed by like a dream.

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