Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 66, Tuesday November 21, 2006




Spoiled for choices?

Allocating a huge chunk of a family's earning for the monthly expenditure on groceries is not an uncommon feature at the beginning of the month. This money is spent on various items, from fish to different kinds of meat to rice and other products, which are used to keep the kitchen stocked for the rest of the month.

For this grocery shopping, most families opt for the kitchen markets, better known as kacha bazaars. Some families, who form a very small minority in Bangladesh's population, do their shopping at supermarkets like Agora, Nandan, PQS and so on.

To decide whether kitchen markets are better than their supermarket counterparts, it is essential to check out the various aspects of the market. In today's competitive world, price alone doesn't dictate the attractiveness of a place anymore. In fact, a lot of other factors come into play, like the cleanliness of a place and the quality of the items available. Although the demand for supermarkets has been rapidly blooming over the past few years, kitchen markets are still preferred for their prices. But when the other factors come in, a lot of people, who previously preferred going to these markets, are now opting for a quick shopping tour at a supermarket. Why? Simply because of the fact that in today's world where time is money, a lot of people prefer the quick and easy way of shopping at a supermarket rather than spending a considerable amount of time at a kitchen market haggling over the prices.

In terms of cleanliness, supermarkets have an edge over their age-old counterparts. Let's face it.

In stark contrast, supermarkets advocate the concept of cleanliness, and when one enters an outlet, let it be Nandan or Agora, you will find that the place is absolutely spotless with the fish and meat all in place behind glass cases. Customers can come and choose from the various kinds of meat and fish products, and choose the required quantities. The staff will then cut the meat or fish into pieces (behind covered places at the back of the stores), pack them in the most convenient way and you will be out of the particular sections without even having to smell the odour of the flesh, or having to step in any hybrid mud-like foulness.

A lot of kitchen markets have no roofs covering their inhabitants, so there is a huge possibility of getting wet in a downpour, increasing the chances of spreading the mud all across the floor, unlike at a supermarket.

When it comes to the service time, the serving time of kacha bazaar beats the time of the supermarkets by a large margin. But then again, the service time is extended by the supermarkets simply because they pack the goods neatly and pay special attention to the customer's preferences. In a kitchen market, the seller will show interest in you as long as you have the money. As long as you have the money, you are a very important person, but the moment you've paid up, you are just one of the crowd. In a kitchen market, although they cut the meat and fish according to your needs, their packing methods are most primitive. In terms of customer satisfaction, supermarkets beat kitchen markets in terms of service quality if not in service time.

But of course, the fun of shopping wouldn't be as much without bargaining. People who go to the supermarkets are deprived of the results that come from bargaining. Bargaining is an art, and people who can do it best, reap the most from it. However, doing it in a supermarket is useless because prices are fixed. At a kitchen market though, you can bargain away to your heart's content and end up with some real 'steals'. As I mentioned before, however, people now opt for paying extra just so that they can avoid wasting time haggling.

There are quality items in both the kitchen market and the supermarket. The only difference is that in a kitchen market, you have to hunt down the good-quality stuff while in a supermarket, the goods that are available there are all of high quality. Supermarkets generally maintain a high-quality stock mainly because of the goodwill factor that is associated with these kinds of markets.

Now for obvious reasons, the prices of goods available at a kitchen market are lower than those found at a supermarket. But you must remember that you can only attain the lower prices through haggling with the sellers at a kitchen market, but if you cannot, sometimes the goods are even costlier there than at a supermarket. Often it can be found that when you buy the same essentials of the same quantity from the two different kinds of market, the price difference of the accumulated bills is quite significant. For instance, the price of a fish differs vastly between the two markets, which can be quite significant if someone is buying a large quantity of fish, and the same can be said for other essentials.

In conclusion, both the markets have good and bad sides. For supermarkets, the obvious reasons for visiting them are because of the cleanliness, the service quality and time, and the fact that the goods they sell are of the top quality. But if you want to be a little adventurous, and venture out into the wilderness in search of the best goods at the lowest prices possible, then kacha bazaars should be your type. So you can now decide where you want to shopkitchen markets or supermarkets.

Asifur Rahman Khan
Photo : Amirul Rajiv

On a different note

Impaling of a city

My completely apathetic approach towards reading Jochhona O Jononir Golpo was mainly founded on two reasons. One, I choose to disassociate myself with all things relating to war for they put me in a state of mind I do not wish to be in and two, because I have never, on any level, felt any sort of attachment to the mukti juddho of Bangladesh. A flip side I always blamed on being brought up abroad, our liberation struggle was a matter to which I related to only thrice a year; that too because I was thrown on stage and made to sing a number of songs whose lyrics I could neither pronounce nor fully understand.

So when I first picked up my copy of the book aforementioned, it was solely because I had been incessantly told that one of the central characters, Asmani, was not like me-she was me. As charmed as I was to find out how, that was an aspect that held my attention for less than the first three pages. I was touched (to the extent of literally) in a way I had never been during my pursuit of any other revolution or liberation struggle that my world history courses had to offer. By the time I was done with the book, I was engaged even in my sub-conscious-dreaming more war dreams than I had ever thought possible. The part that held me the most though was elaborate descriptions of March 24. Mere reading of the apprehension, the uncertainty, the excitement about something radical about to happen from that day forth, even though no one quite knew what, was enough to push me into my own state of anxiety- thirty-five years later.

I gather I was so held by that day of speculation because I have often wondered what it might be like to live in times of drastic changes. Changes up heave life overnight and nullify everything else that seemed important only twenty something odd hours ago, leaving only core survival to matter.

It is perhaps because of this twisted sense of longing that the evening of October 27 has been so etched in my mind. It would be false to claim that I had not been warned of severe political unrest to follow shortly after Eid, but being as apolitical as can be, I shrugged it off as exaggeration of the aged. And being thus unaffected, I ventured into the streets that afternoon despite caution to the contrary.

I had only to progress three feet down my alley to know something was eerily out of place, and if it was not, it would be very soon. Just as the imposed sense of euphoria in the days approaching Eid was illusory so were the conditions that characterised the state of affairs that significant Friday: a complete contrast to the dazzling lights and bustling markets that had on some level become an eyesore. For an undersized city with an oversized population, congestion is a perpetual malice. Yet the streets were deserted. Not the kind if satisfying emptiness that comes with half of Dhaka's population shifting to the remote areas during every religious festival but the kind that raises goose bumps because it is unnatural. It was impossible to take advantage of areas being sparse for it had not come about because those who had left were making merry elsewhere but because the restraint had been fear-derived and forced. And then of course, the 15:1 ratio of RAB to civilian, in favour of the men in black, was anything but consoling.

For the larger part of the afternoon, I managed to retain some sense of amusement at having to shuttle from one restaurant to another only to be greeted by yet another 'closed' sign. That temperament had spiraled down several notches though by the time our hushed lunch was over. As evening approached, the engulfing darkness around us was so much more metaphorical than literal. I listened in as mobiles buzzed around me and a few shaky voices convinced worried parents that they were safe, not sounding half convincing even to themselves. The majority however, submitted to the pleas calling them home, which is more than most youngsters who retreat to their houses only for the night, will do even in the most pressing of emergencies. So this was an emergency then.

I made my way home amidst concerns over whether people would be able to make it back to the likes of Gulshan, Banani and Uttara or whether they would have to be stranded at a nearest friend's place. I had certainly not acknowledged such severity. During my rickshaw ride back, there was a consuming silence all around that spoke so much more than the audible.

I related, point by point, to what I had read of March 24. The insecurity, the uncertainty and most importantly, the subdued fear. Even to the uninformed and uninterested in politics, the sign of impending anarchy was clear.

So this was it then. This was what it felt like to be anticipating sweeping changes that could change the nation in one swift blow. I sat quietly with a sinking feeling of helplessness; there was nothing to do but wait and be victimised. I took one last look at the city of Dhaka and only two images dominated my mind…draculas and impaled.

By Subhi Shama Reehu



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