Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buying vegetables – Yesterday


There is a short story by Isaac Asimov called “The fun they had” about future school children learning from machine tutors and fantasizing about the joy of the yesteryear children who actually got to go to school and learn from real teachers. Things have not come to such a pass – yet – in the real world but it is a fact that buying vegetables has turned dramatically different from what is used to be for the previous generation.
My mother had a great deal of tales about her mother, who was very particular about vegetables. According to her, she had to go out first to survey the market and come back to report on which vegetables were fresh on the day. She used to get sent out a second time to buy the selected vegetables. Once she got home with the purchase, nine times out of ten her mom would yell, “So, you paid good money for the pleasure of scrounging around in the garbage for the vegetables that the vendor had thrown away?” (It comes out better in Tamil – “Vendamnu kuppailai thookki potta kaikariyai kasu kudutthu porukkindu vandiyakkum”). She, then, had to go again to return the purchases and get vegetables that would meet her mother’s approval.
A kinder time when vendors not only allowed you to test the vegetables before buying them but also took them back! Of course, one can imagine all the free vendors making a bee-line for the local tea-shop when they spotted my mother turning the corner into their lane. The ones stuck with customers probably cursed their luck fluently. The only happy person in this whole ensemble had to be the tea-shop owner!
Apparently my mom’s aunt was the next stage of quality control. Once the vegetables had passed muster with my grandmother, my grandaunt took over apparently to see if the quantity was right. She was losing her sight and, thus, she used to go by the count of vegetables to assess how well the purchase had been made. My mom, apparently, passed muster with her regularly whereas my uncle was always considered a bad performer. Irked by repeated complaints, he once bought the smallest ladies-fingers that he could pick so that he shot way above any of her expectations of quantity.
In my earlier days I have myself been on these major shopping expeditions along with my cousin. I was the visitor to Bangalore and, thus, I merely accompanied him on these three trips per day for one complete purchase of vegetables. Needless to say, this was another of my inabilities as my mother found out when she tried to get me to buy vegetables. After three days of worm-laden brinjal, hard-as-wood chow-chow and delicate green potatoes she gave up on me.
The fun they had they can keep! I order my vegetables online now – so I cannot even feel guilty for not being able to pick vegetables properly! Thank God for the Internet!

30 comments:

  1. Lol..effortless humor gathered from daily life. Who better than Suresh ji to do the narration .

    I can't even begin to describe the embarrassment I face when I can't tell a good vegetable from a bad one. Conscious of the glare of fellow buyers, I scan and survey the trolley like a mature buyer. The truth, however never escapes my mum. For which reason I just quietly tip toe out after keeping the bag of vegetables when there are chances of a dramatic admonishment.

    Brilliant post..may I say..as usual !!!

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    1. One more similarity between us, Anupam :)

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  2. We are evolving, aren't we? There were people who'd grow their own vegetables. And there were people who'd snatch their lands from infertile tracts. Soon we'll have capsules. End of all worries!

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    1. No way, Uma! You will still have spurious capsules, sub-standard capsules and all that! :) We are endlessly inventive in trying to cheat the customer :)

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  3. Order vegetables on the internet!!! Those were different times, my grandmother tells tales of her adventures in the vegetable market with pride!! Classy post.

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    1. Thanks DS! It is thanks to a batch mate of mine who co-founded this online grocery store that my veggie worries at an end

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  4. This was lol actually .Anyways we are evolving rightly said by umashankar !
    Anyways keep visiting Desire v/s Destiny as I have again started Interviewing Bloggers also
    Do check out my new website http://www.mymagicjobs.com/

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    1. Ahha! Rahul! So, the big-shots of the blogging world are now getting featured on your interviews! So, who is on the roll of honor?

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  5. Sometimes we used to go to the local market to buy the vegetables....Oh! The smell of the fresh green coriander mixed with other vegetables that used to waft the air was heavenly...Luckily did not have any matriarch sending us on multiple visits! :)

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    1. Ah! Well! I loved those smells too - as long as someone else was saddled with the responsibility of buying the veggies. :)

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  6. Lol! Wouldn't like to be in their place nor the vendors! Your posts always bring a smile to the lips :)

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  7. This is quality control at its best, native style. Who said we did not know management. Imagine , being sent three times for the same work, till succeeded. Was the market nearby?

    Andha kaalathiley, yarrukkum vere velai illa !

    People used to argue for hours for the price, quantity etc. The vendors used to ask for water , or butter milk, and that was our job, fetching them! And some of the vendors were blacklisted, as Anyayakaran. ( not a just fellow). :-)

    Anyway, you are already on the next step, ordering veggies on line, where as here , we can call and ask for home delivery. I dont know how is the quality and quantity of your orders,ours is doubtful stuff.

    Thanks.



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    1. Thank God, the market was nearby! I think of them as kindlier times, where no commercial relationship was purely commercial - the veg. vendor knew the idiosyncrasies of his customers and catered to them; could feel enough of an acquaintance to ask for water/buttermilk etc. Nowadays, a servant-maid is a servant-maid, not a person to you; a vendor is merely a vendor, not someone with a name and a family and so on. Seems to me that all relationships have soured beyond redemption.

      The quality of the veggies is excellent - certainly far far better than what I could buy for myself. This bigbasket.com (one of the co-founders is my batch mate from IIM) that operates in Bangalore is a very good bet - at least as far as the quality of the veggies go.

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  8. hahaha...buying veggies online..the best thing. you don't have to go through any hassle. One of my fav tasks to go to a farmers market and buy them :)

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    1. There I cannot go with you :) I mean it is Ok for me to go to a farmers market but picking veggies??? No Way!!

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  9. So you are also moving to nostalgia, eh, CS? Nice.

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    1. Not exactly moving yet TF! Just made a brief visit :)

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  10. ..seeing and showing the funny in a mundane activity..who else but the master of humor writing? Nice again Suresh:):D

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    1. Thanks Amit! Life has a lot of funny moments. One has to take the time to savor them :)

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  11. As Amit said-trust you to find humor in such a boring activity.

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    1. Mmm! That actually was my mom! She was the one who recounted these tales to me.

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  12. i am a big zero when it comes to humor... i ditto amit and indu !

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  13. That was brilliant! I think I should try buying vegetables online as well :)

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    1. Less pressure on you if you do so :)

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  14. Going to market for vegetables so many times, I would have killed myself ..LOL
    I have not ordered vege on line but you inspire me :p

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    1. Maybe I should charge the online marketers a marketing commission :)

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  15. The vegetable inspection committee sounds eerily and scarily familiar to the one-woman flower inspection committee I have at home - my mother. Though I refuse to go and return the flowers, I do get a earful each time I buy flowers on their freshness, how I do not know how to choose flowers, how I have bought too much or too little, etc. etc. :-(

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    1. A slice of history that the current generation will find unrecognizable :)

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