Wednesday, November 23, 2005

To market, to market

Isn’t it funny how things you once abhorred become wonderful and romantic as your memories are tinged with sepia?

As a child, there was nothing worse than Maadavidhi market. I hated tagging along with my Mother as she bought Leo Coffee Powder, vegetables, sugar and the other sundries that a middle class family run on. If I whined too much and seemed to be on the verge of a temper tantrum she would leave me in the car and wind her way through the thronging mass of shoppers, cows and TVS Champs. I would look out the window and pass the time by counting the number of white 800s that drove by. It would amuse me for about 10 minutes and then I would get fidgety. I would keep a lookout for my mother among the sea of faces. Sometimes I would perk up at the sight of a woman in a similar sari, thinking it was her. But as the woman walked by the car, weighed down by her purchases and who knows what else, my heart would sink.

I would be angry with my mother when she finally turned up. But the anger would evapourate as soon as she produced the glass bottle from Ambika that held 5 minutes of pure pleasure. Flavoured milk. Badham. Pista. Rose. And I would greedily gulp it down – not a thank you or smile in return for her efforts. How rude children can be.

My antipathy towards Maadavidhi came down marginally as the years progressed. I was a regular at Vijaya Books stores as a student. And as a bride-to-be, I loved the silver shops and bangle stalls that dotted the cramped by-lanes. The withered faces of the old women selling fresh flowers. The magnificent Kapaleeshwarar Temple seeming that seemed to expand to accommodate the faithful.

Marriage was followed by Mumbai. And could markets be far behind? My first year in Bandra meant regular visits to the fruit and veg stalls at the base of Mount Mary. I never had a chance to flex my lean linguistic muscles there as all the stall owners spoke English. There was also a fruit seller who would come home every morning and try to sell over priced papaya and ‘import straaabeerries’.

Shifting to town meant goodbye to the sad bruised straaabeeries and hello to the shiny, sticker bearing apples that regally sat outside Premsons. Buying vegetables and fruits here seemed to be all right if we wanted to declare bankruptcy, but as that wasn’t the case I soon began to look for alternatives. And that’s how I found myself back in Maadavidhi. Well, almost.

Matunga. How can one visit Matunga and not fall in love with it? Ram Naiks. The Guruvayoorappan temple. Concerns. Manis. It even has a Giri traders.
Once a week, I would leave behind the cloak of my modern, Bombay lifestyle. Abstain from the alcohol and the swearing. Wear a crisp, starched saree, pick up my green plastic basket and head to this Mecca for displaced Mylapore Maamis. After asking God to forgive me for the sins of the past week and those that I was about to commit in the week to come, I would inexpertly haggle with the vendors and buy strands of fresh malli. I began to enjoy visiting the market. The vendors to whom my face had become familiar. The inexplicable satisfaction that lugging home fresh produce gave me.
So it was with much sadness that I read recently that Tesco would like India to open up it’s markets to the supermarket giant. I know very little of economics and I’m sure that the investment can only do good. But if the impact of supermarket chains on markets and home-grown produce in the UK is anything to go by, I fear for the future of the Mount Marys, Matungas and Maadavidhis that are such a wonderful, colourful and noisy part of India.

I look forward to my next visit to Maadavidhi. It won’t be such a tiresome thing. I am no longer the little girl in the blue uniform waiting impatiently for her mother. I won’t need to count red cars to pass the time. But I will drink the flavoured milk. And I will remember to say thank you this time.


Shyam said...

"Oh no" was what I thought when I read the news about Tesco eyeing the Indian market. Will Tesco convert Indians to pre-packaged everyday food and food that comes in tins and tastes like mush? Hopefully not!

me-unplugged said...

Lovely post! You almost bring a 'malgudi days' feel to Maadavidhi. The Food Worlds, Ranch and Nilgiris have obscured the Maadavidhis, but come Vinayaka Chaturti and Pongal, there's no way any of these chains can replace the Maadavidhi... well, I hope they don't..

icarus prakash said...

first time to this blog..

nicely written..

me to a resident of mylapore, once...

still remember standing in Q for gettin NCERT books -if only i couldnt get it in Azhwar shop- at vijaya stores, THE nellai pazha rasam, valleeswaran koil,adam street, leo coffee stores, aRuvaththu moovar uRsavam, neer mor, karPagambal Mess, luz puLLaiyaar, shanthi vihar masal dosai, flavoured milk at aavin for a princely sum of Rs.2/-.....hmmmmm

but mylapore is not as it used to be... no sepia... only black & white..

Sunil said...

things will change. So will Matunga and Mylapore.....

but we'll have our sepia tinted memories.

labdee said...

Aiyoo... I still drink flavoured milk at the Aavin shop everytime I go back.

Tanithurai market is where my mother used to go - pah what crowd. I used to hate it! And yes, she used to leave me in the car too - easier on her ears not to hear me whining! :)

Yes even I have memories of the market, Shanti Vihar, fake jewelry from Sukra jewelers, Sanskrit college...

labdee said...

Mecca for displaced Mylapore Maamis - haha, how apt!

WishfulThinker said...

I remember vijaya stores!!!
I remember the flavoured milk!
I was crushed in the crowd during the annual chariot festival!
I wonder how long Mylapore will remain the same.
Pretty soon it seems that it will live on only in the memories of those who knew it intimately.
Wonderful post!

MumbaiGirl said...

Your post brought back many memories. Really scared Tesco etc will swallow up our lovely markets and fresh produce.

TomCruiseChellum said...

Alas fantasticas !
A great blog has many appreciators (ie those who appreciate) (from Dallas doctors to be to Upper Hand .....)and the blogger many admirers like smallfont kuttebaspam
Keep blogging.
TCC was brought up on the shores of lake Vembanad in God's Own Country and his sepia t. memories have the flavour of sastha preethi feasts and puli kali during onam. That is another story

shub said...

what a beautiful picture you paint! yet again! :)

LAK said...

Don't worry, even if Tesco does come, India will make it her own, and not the other way round. We have a 'supermarket' here called Needs, which has a lot of phoren stuff--hazaar types of pasta, oreos,cake mixes, precooked meals, dog food,L'Oreal but also a good variety of south Indian mixture, sambhar powder, idli rava, etc, which one does not get easily in Delhi shops!

LAK said...

And as for the hustle and bustle of any local market(Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi) do you really think it will ever disappear? No--there will be muddy narrow paths between stalls of fresh veg;as you bend down to pick your veggies, your chunni will trail in the mud--an inquisitive cow will nuzzle hopefully at your basket, only to be shooed away by the bloodcurdling yells of the stallkeeper. Of course,it seems like the cow is disdainful of the puny shopkeeper and goes away with a swish of its tail---flicking some flies your way!

Sonia Faleiro said...

Lovely, as always.

I work next to Big Bazaar, and so it's been ages since I've had to go to a regular market to buy anything. It's relaxing in a way to land up and buy everything under one roof, but on the other hand, there's something to be said for living the life you've painted.

Übermaniam said...

Ah, memories. such a bitch. Great blog. Btw. Just cruising buy.

Jane Sunshine said...

Good that you've learnt to say thank you Shoe. Sepia toned memories are sometimes all that we have left as another corporation colonizes culture and spirit.

. : A : . said...

"Isn’t it funny how things you once abhorred become wonderful and romantic as your memories are tinged with sepia?"

This is so very true.

Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. Look forward to seeing you around.

Falstaff said...


What's even funnier is how a well written piece can make you nostalgic for things you've never cared for and don't even now. I love supermarkets (they're so clean, so well-organised, so efficient; plus you don't have to deal with Other People - except the half-wit at checkout), but your post still made me feel nostalgic for the kind of markets that i've always shied away from. I even felt a moment's longing for flavoured milk - another thing I can't stand.

Now that's really good writing

Ravi said...

Brought back old memories - Pongal at Karpagambal Mess , Visits to the Kapali Temple before exams , Chocolate Milk at Abhirami Juice center during the chariot festival, "pillayar" shopping for vinayaka chaturthi..
Mylapore rocks !

Sakshi said...

Been there....counting cars and gettin angry while my mum bought vegies and fruits. Do it even today..when i have to drive her to the market.

Swathi said...

no Tescos of the world would wipe away the markets of India.
FoodWorld is already rampant in most parts of India but
the markets have their die-hard fans.
In Hyd'bad we have something called 'Rythu bazaar'
which i frequent.

oh! those bygone days of shopping with Mummy
-well i used to love going along with her n see her haggle with the vendors.
n end of it both of us used to hog on samosas n cham-chams :)
now I find myself an xact replica of her in terms of haggling :)

Mridula said...

I too wonder if malls or superstores can drive oyr markets out? I hope not.

... said...

You know what - even though it is sad that we "may" no longer have our mandis or bazaars - having tescos/walmarts will make things so much more convenient for the Indian junta. I remember getting MAD with my uncle (who lives in a village) when he changed his flooring from "cow dung smear" to proper tiles. I wanted the "village feel" to be remain as is when I visited the village once in a year. My uncle just quietly said "I am sorry about trying to make things easier for people who smear the dung everyday". :-) I had forgotten that I get to enjoy all the "urban comforts" while I want things to remain the same in my village just because I can escape to it once in a while to experience a "village".

In the US, many people made a hue and cry about mom and pop stores closing down due to “walmarts” moving in. But isn’t that for the benefit of the consumers? Isn’t that a sign of progress? As sad as it really is (losing our mandis, old book stores that we’ve been seeing since “forever”), we have to accept that these changes are benefiting the Indian consumers.

Chakra Sampath said...

Very well written.. i am a regular reader of these pages, but i think this is the first time, i am commenting here.

those mada veedhi markets, vijaya stores, luz corner, thaneerthurai market et al are unforgettable.. let Tesco & Sainsburys go there, but let it not take those lovely scenes away.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

thanks to everyone for sharing their own memories and for the kind words! If the Tescos and Walmarts of the world do land up in India I just hope that they don't land right on our markets :(

Übermaniam said...

I don't remember what I wanted to say. Ah yes, just cruising buy.

Übermaniam said...

Oh yes, thanks a ton for removing word verifications. you're really quite sweet. Contrary to popular belief. And the rest of the blogosphere.

Übermaniam said...

To which you might well be tempted to say "My foot!" Hmm...looks like i've said too much. As usual. Cheers, the daily pest.

Anonymous said...

the daily pest is attacking your blog SF. put on comment moderator asap otherwise the plague wont get the hint.

TomCruiseChellum said...

I dont agree with Anonymous that tdu should be blocked.This is not Pattali Makkal Katchi's website and SF is not Kushboo or (god forbid) Suhasini. TDU's fundmental rights are enshrined in the Constitution of India.
I was amused when he called me a bag of s**t(Remember the Sanskrit lines I had quoted once which meant "it takes one to recognize a peer")
In fact I have started admiring his contrarian views, ever since he started "cruising" in recent times.
tdu, have the courage of your convictions and be the boy who stood on the buring deck

anthony said...

Very interesting posts indeed. First time here and I ended up reading everything on the main page.

tilotamma said...

My first time here. I was a T.Nagar kid - went to Kabali koil for the first time this year!

Anonymous said...

hey been reading u for quite some time...

remembered my strict mom and the end of exam allowance of rose milk treat...

i miss her

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