I’m sure all of you women reading this will be able to ‘feel’ the joy I am speaking about. Haggling is a pleasure – not so much in terms of the material benefit it brings but the satisfaction that comes along after a successful ‘deal’. Sadly, though, all of our tribe has been missing this joy in today’s times of shopping for vegetables and fruits at malls and other kiosks selling packaged stuff. All the provisions, fruits and vegetables are weighed and neatly packed in transparent packets with professionally made labels stuck on to them – slick with the price, weight, date of manufacture and expiry and bar code et all! This is how it should ideally be – no chance of any mistake what-so-ever and hygienic as well.
But what about the feel….the touch….the smell….and also the taste sometimes that people of our generation used to savor and then chose the item to be bought home.The cherry on the cake was always the ‘haggling’. To haggle about the rate, weight, or the freshness had its own charm. Shopping for the home was a joint activity of the couple where both took equal interest in the other’s likes and dislikes before buying anything ( compare it to today where ‘items’ are mechanically dumped on to shopping baskets or carts by either of the partner whose turn it is to shop referring to a list – isn’t it impersonal?) Well, what I mean to say here is that it is one thing to fill the larder and another to choose with love and care. The vegetables and fruits were first selected after carefully going through its shape, size, color, smell, firmness etc. etc. After this came the most crucial and the best stage of haggling for its price (I always admire the patience of the vendor who had to go through the same ritual with ‘n’ no. of buyers!). Compare the vibrancy of it all (for today’s generation it is noise pollution!) to the quiet store these days where neat items and neater, silent queues at the payment counter are the order of the day. A discount of a couple of rupees or even a few paise per item (for e.g. paying Rs.2 instead of Rs.2.50 as quoted!) was considered a major victory! And the cherry on the cake was the freebies like the bunch of coriander leaves and green chillies which were put in your big cloth bags where veggies and fruits were gently and neatly arranged according to their type (firm ones at the bottom, riper and softer ones at the top!) – all of it was an art! At the end of the day one was at peace of having haggled well and managed to come home satisfied with the booty!