Experience

Indian market scenes – Open Markets or Sabzi Mandis

I have vivid memories of me & my father going for morning or evening walks, collecting a long list of vegetables as ordered by my Mother. I remember my father examining vegetables & occasionally smelling to get the best of the lot. It felt good to see people around doing the same thing, picking up the best vegetables & better smelling fruits. So much of activity, so much of liveliness in the Mandi intrigued me as a child. I liked the citrusy smelling green limes, the crisp greens, the peculiar smell of green Mirchi. I remember how olfactoric senses complemented the ocular aspects.

Crisp green chillies
Crisp green chillies

Open markets or “Sabzi Mandi” as they are commonly called, are still prevalent in many parts of the country. Brought up in a middle-class family, shopping in a Sabzi Mandi is something that is close to my heart. The idea of buying vegetables from a Sabzi mandi still excites me. On a recent visit to my home town, I decided to go for the ritualistic walk followed by vegetable shopping.

Assortment of vegetables
Assortment of vegetables

The beauty of fresh vegetables never fails to lure. The idea of having a colorful platter makes my mouth water. There is this thing about Sabzi mandis. People never return empty handed. They go back with bags full. Vegetables are fresher & the prices are far lesser compared to supermarkets.  There is so much of variety around. You get everything, from lotus roots to plantain piths. You can occasionally spot a vegetable vendor sharing a recipe or two with the customers. Some vendors have loyal customers too! I remember my father had few vendors of choice. There used to be an old man around the corner selling fruits & flowers for daily Puja. He was my father’s favorite. He always says, when it comes to fish or meat, be loyal to the vendor. You’ll get better pieces at lesser prices. I haven’t seen a better inspector of vegetables than my father. However, the pious cauliflower has always been a bone-of-contention for my parents. I always wonder there are so many important issues in life why would they fight over a cauliflower??!! My father would more often than not get cauliflowers that had few green worms. According to his theory of organic vegetables, cauliflowers that have a few worms are probably free from pesticides. My mother would argue citing the extra work that has to be done to get rid of the worms.

Fish for sale!
Fish for sale!

The charm of a Sabzi Mandi is nothing compared to the dull supermarkets. Living in a metropolitan city, I often wonder “What has Globalization done?” It has driven away the humble Sabzi mandis. It’s a lost battle. The lifeless vegetables, preserved since ages, are now on our plates & palates. The dead vegetables stuffed into shelves in uptown grocery stores don’t attract me anymore. I am lovelorn. I yearn for the citrusy smelling green limes, the crisp greens, the peculiar smell of green Mirchi.

reigning king of indian curry masala
reigning king of indian curry masala

Browse through for some charming scenes from a sabzi mandi.

Red bombs
Red bombs
Bounty of colors
Bounty of colors
Prawns...any one?
Prawns…any one?Today's fresh catch

Today’s fresh catch

Glossary:

Sabzi Mandi: An open vegetable/fruit market in Asian countries.

Mirchi: Chilli

Puja: Act of worship. Related to Hinduism & Buddhism

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