Exchange Diaries: Pune, India

By Brent Moore (ArtSci ' 14)

One of my favourite parts about life in India so far has been buying groceries, because it's so different from back home. I’ve yet to find a Metro in Pune, so most of my grocery shopping this semester has been done at small roadside vendors. Each shop specializes in a few products and is run by local, independent business people. Many are simply roadside shacks made of corrugate metal, or wooden carts that are parked at busy intersections. The shop owners seem to make a modest living and can compete with large, modern super marts that dominate Canadian markets. I was surprised then, to hear that many are actually in violation of civil law and pay regular bribes to stay open.
Here are some pictures and thoughts about buying groceries while on exchange in India:

Fruits and Veggies

Getting fresh produce is never a problem in India: just check out one of the roadside vegetable stands that line many of the country’s busy streets. The vendors in my neighbourhood carry a variety of vegetables and much of the produce is easy to recognize: tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber and onions. But many of the items I had never seen before coming here: small green amla (gooseberry in Hindi), paral (small, watermelon-like gourds), and drumsticks (long, skinny vegetables that can grow over 70cm long). Each fruit is weighed by the vendor and deposited in small plastic bags. Unlike in Canada, there is no guarantee that the owner will have change and it’s common to be given a small handful of chilies or limes instead. Although this was frustrating at first, I’ve gotten used to this substitute and now make a habit of carrying small change.

Milk and eggs

One of the most interesting aspects of food in India is how visible the production process is. It’s not uncommon to see small open-bed trucks laden with the day’s vegetables, driving around the city or being offloaded at the entrance of grocery stores. It appears a conscious effort is made to provide customers with a clear view of how their food gets to their plate. The local shop that I buy eggs from is nestled right beside the shop that sells chickens. Behind the counter is a small chicken coup and across from that is a small chopping block. This type of transparent, small-scale production is refreshing after dealing with the multinational grocery chains that dominate the Canadian market.

Brent will be blogging again for QJBlogs on November 8th.

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