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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Grocery store at street corner

A grocery store in India

I grew up in Sion, a suburb of Mumbai. My granny used to send me for small errands down stairs to a grocery store. During those days, there were no supermarkets or malls in Mumbai and we could do all the stopping from small stores down the streets. There was a small grocery store at the corner of the lane. I often went there to buy sweets that were kept in a large jar. There would be several jars containing sweets of different shapes, colors and sizes. I would pop few sweets into my mouth before giving the shop assistant the list of items that my granny wrote on a piece of paper. This store would be quite messy and was always cluttered with various items, some of them strewn on the floor. There would be sacks containing pulses, rice, dried red chilies, wheat, etc, filled to the brim, some of them overflowing. There would be no path to walk into the store. The shelves, lined on all three sides of the store, would be full of other packed or bottled food that would reach up to ceiling.

The shop owner would sit at the cashier giving directions to his helpers. The assistant would read the list, bring out the things and weigh it in front of me. He would then pack it in a paper bag and tie it with a twine and keep it on the counter. There were no plastic bags in those days and I always carried a cloth bag with me whenever I went to buy the grocery. The shop owner, an old man dressed in loose white kurta-pajama and a Gandhi cap, would then write out the price of each item on a piece of paper, do a mental addition and charge for the same. Calculators had not yet made their invention and everybody knew their proper mental mathematics, right from addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Everybody knew their sums. I knew it too. That was years ago.

Today, after many years, I went back to that store. Yes! The grocery store is still there at that same corner, but the shop looks bigger. The shop owner sitting at the cashier was a young guy with a long hair tied into a pony-tail, maybe his grandson. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt making a statement. The shop was neater with things categorically placed. I went around picking up the things that I wanted and placed the stuff at his counter. He used calculator for addition/subtraction, did not waste time honing his mental mathematical skills. He asked me if I would be interesting in buying new products that were available at his store. I asked me to explain what he had and he introduced me to new health products that were available, the power snacks that had little oil, the dips made at home, the drinks that were organic and before I knew, I had bought many more things than what I had intended to.

For packing my stuff he had no plastic bag but he suggested I buy a cloth bag from him for Rs4 which he would refund if I gave the bag back to him. I bought the bag too, but it is so impressive that I may not return the bag and get the refund. Maybe that guy knew it too.

Now that is called business tactics!!


  1. Gone are the good ol' days. Now everything including the store at the street corner has taken a drastic turn!

  2. True...Nive..wonder if the future generation will also say "gone are good ole days" :))


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