i

i

November 15, 2008

Fall of the last Bastion

The last bastion had almost fallen today. A tragedy if it had happened. My mother, for as long as I remember has been purchasing her grocery and vegetables from local vendors. As a kid, it used to be the best part of the month for us as we went to the town ( was Asansol a city then!!!) to purchase those groceries. Mummy would go to Basu bhai and give her order. There would be three to four more aunties there and occasionally one of the anglo-Indian teachers from school. I would be really scared of them and make all efforts to shrink away, though it was for certain that tomorrow that teacher would be there giving me homeworks. Never did I understand that fear but it was there neverthless. Well yes, the teacher might be there but usually not. My mummy would get into a conversation with basu, the owner who looked rich but always behaved with utmost humility. She would usually speak to the other aunties also and I would gaze at the girls from Loreto convent, who were the daughters of those aunties.

Mummy would give her orders that if I remember correctly, would bill to around 1000-1100 during those days and I speak of more than a decade or two ago.Given her order, I would have finished my gold spot by then and would have gone to the Roy book stall which was and is till is, if I look back at my visit some months ago, is a great place to purchase books. Didi and me would eat the eggrolls ( we still do it now). Oh I love Asansol more than any place on earth and I will love it forever. But this was not about the place that we are talking about now.

It is about my mother's journey into the organised retail world. Basu as we know him, was there till I reached class Xth. That was in 1997 and we were then as we are now, been field people, so Basu was a really good option. However, for the first time, my bade papa shifted into a flat and our weekly visits to their shifted from beautiful Pandeswar to still nice Gorai Road. And with it came a shift in mother's purchasing pattern. A person opened what was possibly the first departmental store of its kind at the basement and mummy started purchaisng stuff from him. It increased to levels taht now means most of her purchase is from him.

Basu bhai relegated to the background and if I ever see him now, he looks older too.
However, being field people, my mother's purchase weighs heavily in favour of local purchase and especially in matters of vegetables.

In the onslought of the orgnaised retail world, names of which we are all familiar with, my mother's purchasing pattern has been a blessing in disguise and I am particularly proud of her for her choice. I have nothing against those mega stores, infact I am not even opposing their business strategy but as a matter of principle, would buy from our local marwari than from some CEO who sits in distant Delhi and fattens his world with a successfull business model.

However, in light of their growing reach in small town India, one of these more famous stores has just opened some distance from our home and we still live in an extremely backward region. It is a shock and to kirana wallahs with their dhotis on and a salutary wave with which they accept their orders, the revolution has hit home now.

Mummy took a visit and almost converted to her new place of purchase but something prevailed inside her and she did not buy a thing from that glitzy store. Hail her and thank god for the kirana wallahs. The last bastion stood its ground.