A passion for Bangalore veggies

Few tasks seemed to give greater pleasure to my Sundhu uncle than hand-picking and buying fresh vegetables from the market. A gentleman of  leisure, he had all the time to leg it to the market, bag in hand, every morning to pick and choose vegetables of his choice that will feature in the day’s menu.

In those days there were no supermarkets showcasing vegetables in packed cellophane bags and so he squatted expectantly like Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the stumps, before the street vendor selling brinjals, lady’s fingers, cluster beans and so forth. His wife, possibly Nala in a previous birth, owed her culinary laurels in parts to Sundhu uncle who not only bought the best but helped in cutting them in symmetrical pieces thus proving he was a cut above many chauvinistic males in our family circle.

Though his staple food consisted of brinjal sambar and  lady’s finger curry that would interchange on the next day as lady’s finger sambar and brinjal curry, his heart pined for what was in those days known as ‘English’ or ‘Bangalore’ vegetables, a moniker for beet-root, turnip, radish, cauliflower and cabbage rarely available in Madras.

During my first official trip to  Bangalore by the newly introduced Brindavan Express he indented for a slew of English (rather Bangalore) vegetables and lest I should forget gave a bilingual list to avoid any confusion, along with some cash as upfront  payment.

When trains pull into Madras Central station, the first person to grab your baggage is a porter but on that day when I alighted, he beat that red-shirted rugby brigade and grabbed the bulging yellow bag, provided by him for his green cargo. The thanksgiving ‘Bangalore-vegetable’ lunch his wife served next day for me was fit for greater gods.

I called on him, an upright octogenarian now, after a gap of several years. The fetching aroma of stuffed baby brinjals being sauteed came from the kitchen proving that Lady Nala’s skill had sharpened. His passion for procuring fresh vegetables from Bangalore must have been doused for they are available in Chennai. “Like you get Calcutta rosogollas  here”, he said. “But I still walk daily to the market to buy vegetables. That way my skeletal joints remain operative without consigning me to the bed as a semi-vegetable,” he said with a chuckle.

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