"I love to travel, but hate to arrive." ~ Albert Einstein


Sivaji Market, Pune

Radha Nair paints a vivid picture of the vegetable and fruit market, evoking images of how we are enticed to buy the fresh goodies with images of the finished delicacies.

fruits for sale

The monsoon showers did not deter me from squelching my way past rain sodden vegetable and fruit stalls outside Sivaji market in Pune. The vegetables glowed under yellow and plastic sheets propped up by bamboo poles. "Mahabaleshwar beetroot for Rs. 45 a kg, now being sold -only for you - for Rs.25, aunty", a baritone voice sang out to me.

This was the time-tested, warm, persuasive Indian sales pitch, where each gullible buyer is made to feel that he/she is the centre of the seller's universe. "Ekdum fresh. Aapka salad lajawaab hoga". The moist Deccan soil clinging darkly to the tender white roots was proof enough.

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vegetables for sale

A voice from the next stall urged, "Madam, look at these brinjals. Bhartha would never taste so good made with these. Take some home." The inky- purple, plump beauties certainly evoked the delicious smoke-infused, charred delicacy that they could be transformed into, if I had I a charcoal chula.

Instead I settled for bunches of suva or the feathery dill, along with lettuce and leeks. Garlic was pretty pricey at 100/kg. Tomatoes stood out joyously in shiny red splendour.

I could also take my pick of fat pumpkins, bountiful ash gourd, slender runner beans, capsicum, and wonderful, long thick radish, waiting to plump out crunchy paranthas. Their grated freshness would come alive, when spiked with green chilies, coriander, tangy lemon juice and salt.

A little orange and white kitten with blue eyes daintily poked around. I noticed that somebody had been steadily nudging me along from behind, for quite some time. It turned out to be a massive, black goat, its head pillowed on my plastic bag. It had sniffed the ripe bananas inside it.

When I looked up, there were wide smiles from the fruit vendors across, who took this chance to entice me to buy their bounty: giant papayas cut with sharply serrated edges, brought out the gorgeousness of the sunset-orange of fully ripe fruit glowing in their encasing of emerald green skin. Pomegranates slit open like flower petals, encrusted a thousand glistening rubies, Musk melons, little footballs - tinged a pinkish orange with faint green stripes running down their rounded sides. A dusky, desert sunset was voluptuously caught in the pink and purple orbs of Hyderabadi grapes. Golconda sweetness, I was promised, would explode in my mouth with each delicious bite.

There was more to feast the eyes on. Firm pears; pinkish brown dates still attached to slender brown fronds; golden-pink mangoes, black tipped, heaped high in circular mounds; all begging to be bought.

But I was already overloaded with vegetables. Besides, the goat was following me around with serious intent. So I waved my hand to the bhaji-phal wallahs and promised, "Next time."

Before I knew what was happening, my feet disappeared through the rain softened layers of hay, strewn randomly to cleverly disguise islands of rotting fruit and lakes of muck and slush!

More smiles from the vendors at this sight, followed by their clamorous salaam-aley-kums to me, until the next time, when Inshallah the sun would bless their corner.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.