As a kid I would often accompany my father on his weekly trip to dhan-mandi(local market). I would sit in the rear seat of our good old Bajaj Chetak, with my arms wrapped around my father’s belly and my mind wandering in the chaos of narrow streets sprawling with hawkers selling bizarre things, stray cows having lost all sense of direction and poor customers finding their way in this pandemonium.
Today, I went to the market again with my father. This time we were travelling in our bike, the rest of the surrounding however seem to show no difference. My father has been a vocal critic of reliance fresh, big bazaar and other multi brand retail stores. It would often seem counter intuitive to me. Today I was to learn, why it wasn’t.
The most surprising thing I noticed while travelling through the mandi was that my father was getting greeted by random shopkeepers along the way. Whenever he would stop to buy a thing, he would have the customary round of bargaining and a convergence on selling price (based on na tera na mera principle). While my father was dealing with an onion merchant, selecting the onions from a tokri full of onions, a tiny little girl nudged him from behind. She was three, maybe four and was the cutest little girl. She had coriander leaves (dhania) in her hands and she was pleading my father to buy a bunch of leaves for five rupees. My father looked at that girl and smiled for seconds at length. He and I exchanged looks. I promptly took out 5 Rs from my pocket and placed it on those tiny hands. My father started to ask “School nahi gayi aaj?”, but she had left by then, too busy to be bothered by such banalities.
We moved on to another hawker. She was selling vegetables. My father asked for 1 kg of ladyfingers and the lady said with much authority “Mai do kilo de rahi hun”. He had to beg her to put only 1 kg. My father motioned towards the spot where that lady was sitting and told me that there was another lady who used to sit here(The lady who was sitting then was the niece of that lady).He always bought vegetables from that lady. She died of heart ailment a few months back. “Bahut dukh hua sunkar” my father said.
We kept on moving through the mesh of hawkers sitting on the floor and selling fruits and vegetables. While I was there I sensed a great loss which my generation and I are moving towards. We are probably going to miss out on a whole set of real friends while we are busy living our virtual lives and considering reliance fresh as our best alternative for shopping. What a shame.