Most of the inhabitants of our planet have very different shopping patterns from those living in the developed countries. They do not buy their groceries at Safeway, Costco or Tesco, but at local markets in their neighborhoods. Sometimes these markets have a series of small shops but often they are open air markets like the one I recently visited in Delhi.
There are dozens of vendors at some of the larger food markets in India, most with a unique product or small series of products (for example, the “onion and garlic” or “apple and orange” vendor, and so on). Sometimes you’ll find four or five vendors side-by-side selling exactly the same fruit or vegetable for exactly the same price. How does the local Indian consumer decide which one to do business with? I asked this of our G Adventures guide, K.V., who said traditionally people from a family frequent the exact same vendor (and his family) for generations. Loyalities and traditions run deep in India, far more than in the west.
During my first days in Delhi I traveled independently and hired a local guide and driver, a very affordable and almost necessary luxury in India if you don’t want to deal with the chaotic traffic and hope to squeeze the most from your travel days. While driving from the beautiful Lotus Temple complex, my guide asked if it was alright if he stop and buy a few fruits and vegetables at the market for his family. To me it was a great idea because I love the people, colors, smells and noises of markets, so I tagged along.
The Subyard-Okla market was designed to service local residents, and did not have a tourist following. The vendors and customers were curious about who I was and why I was taking photos of their fresh produce. Through my guide I explained that I am a blogger who loves to travel and write about my travels, and that I was going to do a post on their market. They found this very entertaining — amazed that someone from the Americas could care about their little slice of life.
Soon some of the vendors tried to strike up a conversation, although they knew very little English and I knew absolutely no Hindi. But it was fun for us to try to communicate. Several wanted their photos taken and at the bottom of this post, you’ll see a few of these kind souls sharing their smiles and produce with us.
As a rule I only buy “peelable” fruit when on the road — to help avoid the discomforts of “Delhi belly” — and the oranges were absolutely wonderful. I wished I could have bought and sampled more. Visiting this market and dealing with the kind people there was to be one of the best experiences I had in Delhi.