Imagine a life where the only responsibility you have, even if for a few weeks, is to buy seasonal fruits from the market while returning home. This started when I got my first job in 2005. Although earning, I was not expected to contribute anything at home. So I started buying fruits on my way back, as much as I desired for the entire family (although I always ate the lion's share). Kalojaam (blackberry), jaamrul (Java apple), lichu, safeda, you name it. I would happily come home, two large bags of fruits in hand. With my meager salary, I had never felt richer.
The trend continues. No matter whether I am in a bus or taxi, I always get off at the local market to buy fruits while returning home. I get on my haunches and hand-pick fruits. This time, I spotted a particular woman seller in between a bunch of men. Being appreciative of this, I started chatting up with her.
"Kalojaam koto kore?" How much? I asked.
"Ten rupees for 100 grams." she said.
Fruit sellers always quote prices for 100 grams here possibly because it tricks the buyer into believing that they do not have to spend much. Kaalojaam, or black berries are a close favorite after mangoes and litchis, and I have never found these in the US/Germany. So when I ask for 2 kilos, her jaws drop, and she gives me a 10% discount. I never haggle for prices, something that Ma and I always keep arguing about. Ma's point is, sellers always inflate the prices because people are going to haggle. My point is, if the price sounds reasonable enough (most things do now, since my euros give me even more buying power), I do not want to haggle with a poor man who is sitting in the sun and trying hard to make a living. If one does not haggle at Pantaloons and Westside, why haggle with fruit sellers? Those 10 rupees I save is not worth the kicks one gets.
So I continue to buy fruits from her whenever I go out, and we chat up. Now, she starts to watch out for me as well. One day, she gave me good quality plastic bags for things I had bought from another place because I was not carrying a grocery bag. The other day, she gave me a handful of kalojaams for free to chew on as we continued to chat. Every time I put a few in my mouth, she would choose a few good ones and place them in my hand. Who would have imagined making a new friend at the local market over buying kalojaams?
She was thrilled when I asked her name. She was even more thrilled and blushed profusely when I asked if I could take a picture of her. So she posed nicely and gave me her best smile.
Grandma and I have forgotten to eat other things, and have been happily overdosing on kalojaams ever since, our teeth and tongues perennially violet in color now.