Thursday, January 11, 2007
Mugged by a cow in HAL market...
One of the things that I love about India is the freshness of the produce. I have never eaten such fresh fruits and vegetables in my life!
When I can, I like to hit the HAL market (so named for the neighborhood - Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Layout). This is a small market, where the fruits and vegetables are just 2 days away from the farm (produce first comes to City Market in the center of town, then gets distributed to the other small markets. Tree-huggers would love the do-no-harm ecological approach these markets embrace.
First, they let cows roam freely thru the market. The cows eat the produce that has wilted and no one will buy. All the vendors just throw the "bad" produce into the walkways, where the customers and cows mingle. Second, most customers bring their own bags, rather than rely on the cheap plastic bags the vendors give you - these bags are notorious for ripping just over a cow patty. YUM!
The market is a noisy place. Vendors are constantly trying to attract your attention, especially if you're a firangi memsahib. "Madaaam, Madaam, nice oranges you see, 50 rupees/kilo, all the way from your Australia." (I am not Australian, btw) "Caaarrrots, Caaaarrrots!" Now and then an ambitious cow moseys along the walkway, stops at a vendor's table and attempts to gobble at the good stuff. In between the "madam, madaaam" cries are the "Hei! PO PO! BhajuHUT!" - Tamil and Hindi for GO, Get Lost! - aimed at the cows. Also, many vendors drink on the job - a freedom even most Americans do not enjoy.
At the market the other day, I was admiring one particular cow while my maid was picking thru bundles of "keerai" - a relative of spinach. Unlike most market cows, this cow was not covered in dung, she was very clean and looked like she belonged on a milk carton! The cow came towards me, and too late, i realized she was after the cucumbers that were poking out of my basket. She stuck her head in my basket and I just cried "Heeeeyyy!," then my maid gave the cow a good smack on the side and the cow moved away with half a cucumber.
Yuck! The maid threw the other half into the walkway... and all the market enjoyed the escapade. Maybe they paid the cow off! :-)