Breslyn, Caitlyn & I were doing our weekly supermarket shopping, and amid the austere aisles with their goods all packaged and itemized, I suddenly longed for the hustle-bustle of the Bandra Bazaar.
In our house, dad was the one who made this weekly trip to the Bandra Bazaar and, once in a blue moon, I got to tag along. After Sunday Mass and breakfast, he’d take his trusted bazaar bag (you know the one - black rexzine bought at the Mapusa market) and off we’d go. Once the Yezdi was parked by the Cross at the junction of Chapel, Veronica, and Bazaar Roads, the grocery shopping would begin in earnest, pausing only for a quick hello to Aunty Mary who spent her twilight years watching the world go b(u)y from her porch at 100 Bazaar Road, and a chinwag with old school chum Joe on the politics of the hockey team selections.
The fruit and vegetables first. Carts of fresh produce - oranges, tomatoes, sweet limes, melons - all arranged in perfect pyramids, enough to rival those of Giza. The hardy ones like onions, apples, potatoes, watermelon and carrots were placed at the bottom of the bazaar bag, followed by the squishier ones like custard apples, palak and chikoos (no fancy-schmantzy imports like avocado or zucchini in those days). Next halt: the adrak-mirchi-cotmir stall for the ‘green masala’.
After a great deal of higgling and haggling and ‘making bhoni’, dad usually ducked into Kalidaas, the grocery store, where you bought everything from Kashmiri chillies to kala namak. Come December and all the Catholics would flock here for their Christmas sweet and cake ingredients – candied peel, dried fruit, Amul butter, flour, caster sugar… While the baniya toted up the bill on his scrap-paper ‘notepad’, you watched hawk-eyed, as the old fashioned weighing scale with the stone weights, see-sawed precariously as gram upon gram was either added (but mostly subtracted) until the perfect balance was achieved (no digital devices here).
Another shop that beckoned was Coin Tea. Hessian sacks filled to the brim with fragrant loose leaf teas like Orange Pekoe, Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri tickled your nostrils as you chose your blend for an afternoon cuppa.
Since Sunday lunch usually meant chicken curry, that’s where we’d go next. The stench from the Broiler & Egg shop would assail you from a mile away. Chickens clucking & squawking away in their caged baskets, prepared to meet their doom. And I was always too chicken to watch…
The butcher was next – cuts of beef and mutton on display, as well as offal like liver, trotters (Paya curry, anyone?), tongue and brain. Dad would buy a hunk of beef, half of which would cubed and rammed into the metal grinder to emerge as squiggles of mince on the other side.
The last stop was the fish market, for obvious reasons. Ramzaan, the coconut seller who talked in plurals, (see my coconut post dated April 5) always stood guard outside the entrance to the fish market. Cats milled around, waiting for scraps of fish heads and tails, while your nose got accustomed to the pungent pong. Fish mongers with their baskets of the freshest catch called out to you in Marathi, “E pori, kai paije?” Pomfrets, surmai, bangada, kurdee, crabs, shellfish, bombils - all glistening and glorious in their round wicker baskets clamoured for your attention. The pitch of the fishmongers’ voices got shriller as the bargaining got more heated. Dad would walk away, only to be called back and placated. Once the pomfrets were gutted, the sharks skinned in one swift motion and the prawns peeled, we’d be on our way back home with our bounty.