Malathi Sivaramakrishnan doesn’t need to get brown rice on special order from South India any longer, she just picks it up at the neighbourhood store in Mayur Vihar. Similarly, Harpreet Kaur doesn’t have to worry about eating vegetarian eggs. Daily Needs, the grocery store in Model Town, provides her with organic (unfertilised) eggs every day.
Speciality cheese, persimmons, avocadoes, tri-coloured pasta, and the likes which once upon a time meant a visit to Khan Market, Vasant Vihar or INA market can now be found at the neighbourhood subjiwallas, kirana stores and sometimes even at the Safal booth.
In fact, very often, the fruit and vegetable section of retail chains sport a board which says “special discount on exotic vegetables” — clearly an incentive to buy, and more importantly, an indicator that there is a demand for these with the Dilliwallahs.
Over the past two years, the increasing demand among Delhiites for “speciality” ingredients has meant that the kirana shop sells sea salt, brown rice, organic dals and unrefined sugar while subjiwallas sell red and yellow bell peppers, fennel bulbs and jalapenos though they can barely pronounce the names.
“Le jao aunty, sasta hai. Isko bagair tel ke paka ke khana, sirf thoda namak chaahiye (Take these and cook them with a little salt and no oil),” says Ram Lal, trying to persuade a resident of Mayur Vihar to buy the last of his bell peppers which he calls “lal peela shimla mirch”.
Even the Safal booths in most areas, offer Broccoli, red cabbage, sprouts, strawberries and iceberg lettuce when in season. “I bought the lettuce the first time in the Safal booth and now I pick up some whenever it’s available,” says Sarika Jayakumar, a resident of Pandara Road.
If it’s tea or coffee you want, most neighbourhood stores offer a selection of teas from Sri Lanka and a couple of coffees imported from the US. “I like Dilmah fruit teas like cherry and peach. Earlier, I had to go to INA Market or Connaught Place to buy it but for the past one year, I have been getting it right here,” says resident of Rohini Sector 7, resident, Gopal Razdan.
The really interesting change that has come about in the neighbourhood shops is not that these items are to be found but the fact that you only have to tell the shopkeeper what is it that you want and he is willing to get it for you. So go on ask for onion oil or whole wheat fettuccini, it’ll be available.