Over the past few months, I got a call twice from my old sabziwala, Ashok, in Kolkata. He called long distance to say hello to me in Mumbai, filling me with delight. For I was connecting again with my man in Kolkata, my grocer – no, the word doesn’t just do justice – my vegetable vendor, who brought his produce from rural Bengal.
Ashok sold the most tender and the best breed of cauliflower and okra and drumsticks and, in the summer, mangoes. He sold “ol” and yam and some obscure, quintessentially Bengali vegetables.
When I needed something special, like white onion or country tomatoes – not the hybrid variety – he would procure it for me from his farm or elsewhere. And often he would give away something free.
So, when he calls me, I feel happy and nostalgic. In Mumbai, I haven’t been able to forge such a relationship with any sabziwala.