This happens only in India

This happens only in India

While abroad, my daughter-in-law Akshata used to keep the TV on even when she was not watching it. “I cannot stand silence. The noise from TV keeps me company,” she would say. This situation is reflective of cultures where even babies don’t dare to cry aloud but whimper, and mothers whisper to hush them!

Only when we are away from our homeland do we realise how some insignificant (and often irritating) yet intimate sounds, smells and sights enliven our days. Be it a celebration or mishap, call it interference or concern, we deem it a duty to be a part of the society we live in. We love to surround ourselves with the resultant noise, activity and sensations which is a psychological boost for us to plunge ourselves in. One cannot forget to mention the door-to-door vendors pushing carts, trudging miles on their daily rounds of localities, which is a unique feature of our country.

There may be some black sheep among them, yet for the sick, old, housebound homemakers who are turned away by the long queues in supermarkets and haven’t yet adapted to shopping online, these vendors help keep their kitchen fires burning. Their advertising calls are interesting, some are funny, some squeaky or croaky, some too loud, a few irritating, most of them so confusing that it defeats the purpose. Yet, these much-awaited calls are musical when the empty onion basket stares back at you, with the recipe demanding onions looming large on the menu!

Familiarity soon personalises these vendors, often making my elder daughter-in-law Shilpa, who efficiently keeps a tab on the depleting vegetable basket and needs of the daily menu, call out, “Ours has come”, (meaning our usual vendor) or “Not our potato cart”.

Eventually, these sellers acquire nicknames, often uncomplimentary, based on our experiences with them like “the fighter cock” — the coconut seller ever ready to pick up arguments with the buyers, or the “loud-mouthed wrangler” — the greens seller who, at the slightest provocation, starts narrating his family history and the duties that await him back home.

The absence of these members of the unorganised sector is felt and justified with guesses like “the Tamilian fruit vendor must have gone to his native place to celebrate Pongal” or “cost of onions must be keeping him off!” These concerns are genuine sentiments, and not based on the extra beans he gives!

These sellers know the preferred items of each family in front of whose houses their calls grow louder. And for those insensitive buyers who haggle unmindful of the meagre margin he gets on his perishable commodities, he has his way of giving them the benefit of “consumer’s surplus” — by quoting a higher price and bringing it down!