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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Sabzi mandi tutorials

Rajbir Deswal   January 10, 2013
First Published: 10:34 IST(10/1/2013) | Last Updated: 10:35 IST(10/1/2013)

Buying vegetables is not only fun but also education. It makes good citizens out of people who always crib about price rise. An opportunity for all-round growth is the greener side of being in a "sabzi mandi (vegetable market)".

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Brush up your calculation skills while you bargain with the vendor. Your addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills are all at play, as you settle on getting a value more than the price.
 
Be updated on matters political. When the onion price makes you bleed tears, your vote's decided. Also, some confidence-building measures with a neighbouring country get reinforced when its glut is dumped on us, and vice versa.

Some geography is sure to exist in your inflation-congested fisco-mental-ghetto, as you taste grapes from Chaman in Pakistan, Fuji apples from China, or cherries and strawberries from Europe. Thailand-grown Arabian guava may just be a euphemism and an apology, thanks to hybrid hits and trials.

The best lesson in democratic values and peaceful coexistence is learnt in "sabzi mandi", when you rub shoulders with all and sundry, not minding being nudged, whacked, huddled, cornered and sidelined. Anyone can jump your turn to pay and weigh; and snatch the best cauliflower you picked. You learn enough tolerance in only a few minutes of shopping.

Guess about the fruit as you hold it and judge its shape and size, and your ego will get a boost when it turns out right. After a while, you learn to separate the heavy orange with thin skin, and the sweetest apple without a raw seed inside.

The people who get hostile upon slight noise become the most docile in "sabzi mandi", and don't mind the vendors' yelling (that minute-by-minute price and quality update). Watch Darwin's best-selection theory at work, as the competition to mop up the spared stuff at reduced price hots up at late evening. Every move and haggle counts.

Even when used to all the smells and stinks, visitors fall for the freshness of sprinkled water on old greens. Allow yourself to be a little mean, for here's a chance to pick up a little bunch of complimentary green coriander sprouts (dhaniya) with 200 grams of paid shopping if you just ask the vendor.

Wholesalers will play all the tricks so that you go for distress purchase, even when you know the extra stuff will go waste at home. No gender bias in "sabzi mandi", for even women can be smart sellers.

Season's firsts (imported carrots, broccoli, or cucumber with thick coat) have arrived. From desi "Kis khet ki mooli ho?" to foreign "Rotten apple", languages have borrowed richly from fruits and vegetables but I wonder why no Hindi movie producer, except that of Sanjeev Kumar's "Angoor", went looking in the "sabzi mandi" for titles.

 rajbirdeswal@yahoo.com

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