Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Desi green

Indians leave a genetic trail in their wake, far more potent than any other nationality.

Ten minutes at a “Safal” vegetable shop should prove conclusive enough. Watch how they sniff, smell, scratch, tweak, rattle and knock the bio products before settling on a selection. It does not bother any that ten earlier compatriots would have stuck their noses into that very mango. Why, there is inland competitiveness at who has the smart shopper’s trick, down pat. The Hyderabadis would be hard put to share with a Delhite how they use their index finger to poke a melon and gauge its ripeness, just right. The color of the aubergine stalk has to be that precise, particular green. And woe betide the okra that does not snap at the tip with a sharp sound, there are greener buys.

Tomatoes get squeezed, spring onions are shaken and beets juggled in the air to estimate their woodiness. Shoppers spend awhile eliminating cracks, dents, scales and limpness. They are not averse to rubbing two specimens for that elusive squeak. Firm, smooth, tight, bright, crisp, compact and uniformly coloured is the mantra. There are highly individualistic, talismanic moves in unique permutations and combinations. Let’s see, two knocks and three turns…repeat this pattern six times and you have the best watermelon of the lot. Chuck the muskmelon in the air, up twelve and a quarter inch and if it lands back in the palm with a light thud that seems disproportionate to the size, ah…that’s the one!

There have been days when I have felt retarded in the face of this intense engagement with the farm produce. I may be veggie-selection-challenged, picking as I do, visually. But I envy the very ‘desi’ and sensual process of buying vegetables in India. Of course, the advent of the “Safal” chain has neutralized that other critical component of vegetable buying and selection, bargaining if you please. It used to be that some sellers would take umbrage if you did not bargain; it took the sting out of the sale for them.

A recent survey shows that Indian consumers are willing to pay more for green products that are labelled and readily available. There is a growing concern about the state of the environment. The question is, who will drive this green agenda? Will it be the government, the NGOs, the private sector or the civil rights activist?!

Meanwhile, smell on the mangoes...

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