I miss shopping in India. Whether for food and necessities, clothing or bicycles, draperies, mattresses, or sheets, shopping in India is an adventure that cannot be duplicated in the sterile environment of a grocery store or mall in the United States.
When I first moved to Whitefield, I had to travel into Bangalore for most of my family’s groceries. The only grocery store nearby offered a limited selection of goods. So, on market days, my driver, Siva, and I would head into town for fruits, vegetables, rice and beans, cereals and milk, and whatever else the family needed. The driving alone took over an hour one way. And we usually had several stops to make.
Roads in the cities of India are congested and back in 2004, when we moved to India, the main road from Whitefield into Bangalore traversed a narrow bridge that bottle-necked traffic. The slowdown could be annoying, especially for my driver who had to maneuver through the chaos. I would watch as motorcycles, scooters, and rickshaws wove in and out of traffic, appearing suddenly and adding to the headache of the commute.
At the markets we visited, which were all tiny in comparison to the grocery stores in America, I enjoyed trying new products although I also missed some of the things that I was used to finding at home. What amazed me most was the ability of the merchants to organize and offer such a variety of goods in such small spaces. At drug stores, which were usually small shops with counters opening to the sidewalk where medicines and other sundries were sold, every cubbyhole in the space was used. Tiny spaces might hold ointments or bandages while a nearby drawer was home to pain relievers or cough drops. At stationery stores, pencils and erasers, staples and paper clips were all in easy reach of the merchant. And the array of goods available, retrieved from spaces underneath or overhead, was truly stunning.
About the time I became used to the drive and the time it took to shop, the bridge over the railroad tracks was widened and the drive into town was easier. And then, new grocery stores opened closer to home and I no longer had to commute for groceries. Of course, I still enjoyed heading into town for a good wander.
I still miss the chaos and craziness of a day on Commercial Street in Bangalore, exploring my favorite silver shop, searching for a new Salwar Kameez outfit, rooting through antique shops for unique finds. I miss the outdoor fruit vendor who would bargain with me or my driver over prices while offering us tasty samples of mango or jackfruit.
I am looking forward to heading back to India in October, this time with a group of adventuresome travelers ready to experience all that India has to offer. We will take some time to explore and shop in Bangalore. To experience the crush of the traffic, the press of the crowds, the thrill of the find when some particular item calls to be purchased and taken home as a remembrance of the journey.
Come along for the adventure!