Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 27, Tuesday, january 4, 2005




winter and kitchen markets

FOR a person who believes that shopping is almost like a therapy, the mere sight of 'stuff' is a big turn on. It doesn't matter whether the 'stuff' in sight is fresh spinach being cut from their beds or shining light green turnips piled at any corner on the vegetable cart or a bottle of Happy on a perfume rack in one of those super stores, the effect is always the same. Many might not see the link between turnips and perfumes but for a shopaholic the attraction is as strong and temptations are always hard to resist, no matter what, you fall prey to it.

Honestly speaking I am always a victim of such lures. I can't think straight and feel extremely giddy when I pass vendors literally throwing quacking ducks on my face or when I pass by malls that I know showcase my 'kinda stuff', I go into a trance.

Many of my friends complain that I even fail to notice them or recognize acquaintances under such 'shopping situations'. I am not sure whether they are making up stories but I never contradict them cause I know the adrenaline rush I face when I simply think shopping, talking or writing about it gives an equal high.

Winter is the vegetable season and kitchen markets all over the town are in festive moods and during such times it's almost a sin to have lunch or dinner without a bowl of salad. Red beets, light green cucumbers, white radishes, dark green capsicums, spring onions, bright orange carrots; try to imagine the riot of colours and see how gorgeous it looks.

Let's talk about kitchen markets. These are my personal favourites because of the rich display of colours and combinations. It's a pleasure to see dark purple aubergines in line with rich green okras topped off with almost white and green cauliflowers or red and green tomatoes together in a basket.

Gulshan I kitchen market has an excellent array of herbs, shrubs and other so absolutely necessary stuff. Of course the superstores offer the same items and more imported ones too, but a local kitchen market beats them all. Specially this one which has vendors speaking fluent English and where you get everything from tofu to cuttle fish to thyme to celery and even the patties of spring rolls. Smiling sellers, good customer service sense and great buys makes this kitchen market among the top.

However Karwan bazaar early in the morning around 5 to 6 a.m. or dead at night say around 12 or 1 a.m. is an amazing place, trucks unloading all sorts of produce from the villages, the lanes are clogged with fresh vegetables and fish. It is very difficult to squeeze in and buy at the middle of the night and then nothing sells less than five kilos, but it's the best place to go to if you plan to do the weekly grocery shopping, bring in a friend or two so that you can split the budget. Early in the morning fishes are an excellent buy in this market, all fresh and cheap, seasonal vegetable too sells cheap at that time of the day.

You have to be a morning person, or else the charms and thrills of Karwan Bazaar are no different than that of other city kitchen markets. By 9 am the entire area transforms back to the regular Karwan Bazaar that we normally get to see.

New Market kitchen market is also a good haunt and needless to say cheap as well.

Markets in the suburbs and outskirts of the city are fine places too. Uttara's sector 10 boasts a wonderful makeshift fish market that lasts for few hours; from the break of the day till maximum 7:30 am, this corner plot is bursting with activity. Villagers bring in their catch from nearby rivers and lakes and sell them at extremely reasonable prices. The variety is not as great as at the markets but the catch is always fresh. Baridhara DOHS also has a similar fish market near the lake. These are area-based small open markets that finish business as soon as the city wakes up.

After the openings of superstores many of us stopped going to these places mainly because of the nasty lanes overflowing with dark dirty water, stinking odours, rotten vegetables stacked in a corner. Moreover for working people its easier to drop at the superstores and get errands done while sipping coffee but the charm of buying and haggling from kitchen markets or visiting such small suburban haats remain a different kind of fun altogether. Enjoy this year's winter.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Sharier Khan

an hour in the

kitchen market

IT is 9am in a Friday morning, Harun-ur-Rashid, a pension holder in his 60s with a plastic bag in his hand is hurrying to the kaacha bazaar in his neighbourhood. It is one chore he's been performing with enthusiasm every morning since his retirement. The bazaar is already crammed with housewives and pension holders like him competing to grab the biggest fish, the freshest and juiciest of vegetables.

Rashid steps inside the bustling fish market. His regular "maach wallah" Rahman greets him with a smile "Aijka boro boro rui maach ase Sir, loiaa jaan", and with this greeting note the every day episode of kitchen market begins.
We met Rashid and his maach wallah at a Mirpur section-2 kaacha bazaar. Rahman, an expert in the art of haggling, was trying to convince his customer about the good quality of his merchandise although its appearance differed from his statement. Considering this writer as a potential customer, Rahman beckons for a look at his rich stack.

We started our little chat with the fish trader. A man in his mid 30's, Rahman joined this business about 15 to 16 years ago. Everyday, early in the morning he collects his stack from the wholesale market at Karwan bazaar. Business continues till evening, with a short break in the afternoon. If the entire stock is not sold, he stores it in ice and sells it the next day.

Being an expert, Rahman gave us a few tips about the fish market. "It is the earliest hour" he says "that is good for getting the best buys". "Always check the gills. If they are red then the fish is fresh. But remember some dishonest sellers use colour in the gills to make them appear fresh. Also press the fish gently with the fingertip. It has to feel firm. You always have to be careful in the fish market," he advises. He also cautioned about buying fish stored in Formalin "They give off a bad smell even after cooking," he informs.

Would it be better if he were doing something else for a living, we asked Rahman, "Life as a maach wallah is nothing much, but I believe it was meant for me by the person up there", he answered. "I have regular customers like him (pointing out at Rashid, who already bagged two kilos) whose blessings keep me alive", Rahman stated.

Rashid went on with his adventure in the kaacha bazar. He moved towards the vegetable zone ignoring more maach wallahs. It is now time for the shabjiwallah to try and persuade him to buy his goods, and the good man wastes no time in doing so. He was praising his cauliflowers. Like Rahman, his face belonged to that of a hardworking man.

In the meanwhile, a middle-aged woman approached Rahman and asked about the price of his product. He tried to win her over with his jingle but this time his persuasion was not enough, as this woman knew all about the tricks of the kitchen market trade. About his toughest customers Rahman comments, "These Khalammas are the hardest ones to please. They have eyes like eagles. They can scan the smallest of scars".

The episode at the kitchen market continues with trifling events like these. It is like a love-hate relationship between a maach wallah or shabjiwallah and his customer. For us, life without people like Rahman and their smiling faces would be incomplete.

By Shahnaz Parveen



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