The grocery store of the masses- Bhaji Galli

 

A whizzing of flies is in the air. They sit atop the coconuts that stand in the very first stall of the lane and if you listen carefully, almost sound like a welcoming jingle.

Being able to hear them is rare as the noise of the street is so overwhelming that it becomes difficult to even hear the voices in your own head. It is after all, in every sense of the word a street vegetable market, Bhaji Gallli where vendors and buyers come together, burgeoning stalls and bargaining voices.

Oversized and overused umbrella’s shelter the brightly coloured fruits and vegetables from the harsh Mumbai sun and the even more relentless rains but flecks of mud nonetheless make it to a these wares. Flecks that are sneakily wiped off when the customer’s backs are turned.

More than 60 years old, this long meandering lane at 17, Shankar Seth Road, Bhaji Galli, offers a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in small stalls along with a quirky peppering of items such as metal vessels, plastic wares and oddly enough, a little shanty selling only fancy ribbons.

The smells in the air are confusing, there’s a whiff of garlic here, the smell of wet leafy vegetables there and somewhere in the midst, the scent of juicy plums.

You can find ordinary Indian vegetables and fruits here but as you venture into the heart of the market, exotic wares like Celery, rosemary, thyme, cherry tomatoes and purple cabbages make their presence felt.

The vendors have a kind of brotherhood, nobody slashes their prices beyond an accepted rate and most customers have their favourite sellers.

The stalls on the street are rented or even bought. Om Prakasah from Uttar Pradesh was attracted by the lure of the big city and came to Mumbai seeking fortune. He has his fields at home but decided to get into the fruit business and has been a fruit vendor at the market since ten years. “ You need a BMC license to own a stall here, which I don’t have so I rent out the space for Rs.6000 (₤ 84) a month.”

The opulence of the vegetables and fruits and the simplicity of the market and its lower middle class vendors form a sad paradox. Little boys younger than even 14 wander the lane offering their lifting services to customers, customers who only want the freshest fruit and the greatest variety in vegetables while the boys can scarcely afford even half a fruit.

As the vendors shoo these little men away and turn their backs, they dip into the somewhat spoilt fruit basket and wander away with a stray litchi, grins of accomplishment on their faces.

Much like the women who feel they’ve struck a great bargain and the vendors who think the same. It’s a continuation of the streets of Mumbai, where the rich remain rich, the poor remain poor and they both like to think they’ve outsmarted one another.

 

 

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Published in: on July 23, 2011 at 7:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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