Where have you been? Rice is 22$ a bag now!!

Helloji!! smiled the man at the counter of our local Indian grocers. “Been a while since I saw you here” he said in Gujarati accented Hindi. Saathi and I smiled, paused at bit by the counter and inquired after him and his family. “I have been wanting to reach you the past week” he emphatically said. “Price of rice has shot through the roof. If only I could have reached you before” he wistfully added. Turned out a 20 lb bag of rice now sold for 22$ up almost 11$ from the last time we purchased a similar bag. Reassuring him that we were not to run out of rice for the foreseeable future we walked down the aisles of neatly packed masala into the cavernous inner chamber that housed the vegetables and lentils. Examining what was available, we quickly filled our shopping bag with a few vegetables and snacks from the snack aisle before heading back to the counter.

The shop was empty save us and the elderly gentleman. As he rang up the rather meager pile of things in our basket he noticed we had a 20 lb bag of whole wheat flour with us. Scanning the price we realized that had gone up too by over 5$. As we remarked rather wryly that we should perhaps look at alternatives to wheat or rice, he shook his head rather sadly and said he would ring it up for a dollar less than what was on the sticker. We protested loudly and insisted he take the full amount. As we left and settled in the car, Saathi scanned the bill and noticed he had not charged us for a couple of items. It was the grocer’s way of making us feel we had a bargain.

The ride home was filled with conversation on how this particular guy was going to make a success out of his business if he insisted on giving away something free each time we visited him. Thoughts meandered back to the annachi kadai back in Kovai where irrespective of my age, I would always be addressed akka. The guy would point out the new brands of shampoo in the market and even give me suggestions on what was best for my hair. Occasionally he would throw in a caramel candy as I left the store. Then there was the hand cart vendor who stopped by our house in Chennai each morn trading witticisms in exchange for 100 Rs worth of vegetables. He would cite planetary alignments for the rising price of onions or suggest that perhaps luck might come our way by purchasing apples from him. As much as we cribbed about his rates, his visit would sometimes make us smile all through the day.

What is life without interaction with these pillars of society? The differing sales pitch and the incredible warmness in their welcome. I wonder if these are signs that we are putting down roots wherever we are.

14 comments

  1. Oh wow! It has been awhile since I purchased rice. Did not realise it was this expensive!

    But sweet of that person to have offered to give you the wheat bag at a lower price. I guess such good things only happen in closely knit community. Here the grocers are hell bent on looting. They charge u sometimes double of what the price of an item actually is or charge you for items you did not even buy. I have to regularly check my bill after buying any groceries to ensure I have not got cheated!!

    Lakshmi

  2. @Laks: We got a shock too yest when we went to buy stuff. It is nice to have friendly grocers though 🙂
    @Madhu: I did not know prices had gone up even the first time. So was a real shocker.

  3. Laksh-

    Thanks for the heads-up on the price increase for rice, our grocery store India Cash & Carry is as it is expensive, can’t expect any favors.

    Have to switch to other types of food…

  4. As Lakshmi, the bane of living in major urban centers is that there is no personal touch or sense of camaraderie with the grocer. Enjoy more noodles and pasta – brown rice, perhaps!

  5. @Shy: Actually I did think of it and wondered if we should stock up on pasta 🙂
    @Mitr: Absolutely! Only when inspecting my pantry I realized how much I rely on rice and rice based foods.
    @Akay: Brown rice it is. Till their prices go up I mean 🙂

  6. the mom and pop shops as they call them here are always friendly and welcoming…unfortunately bigger grocery shops seem to be shutting them down these days…but hey, it feels nice to share such a warm relationship. As for rice, hopefully it wont be an issue for us as we dont use it as often…

  7. @UL: Very true. Its amazing to realize I could walk into my neighbourhood grocery stores and look around. I recognize practically everyone who works there. Be it the local Giant or the desi grocers.

  8. A very interesting post Laksh and reiterates my feeling that if one has develops a personal relationship with a small retailer then there is nothing like shopping in such a place! In fact I wrote about his just recently. Ofcourse for me the experience in these mom and pop stores hasn’t been good at all, because I have always moved frequently, before marriage and after marriage. I find supermarkets a big relief as one doesn’t have to know the retailer to get the best bargain. At supermarkets I find people are professional and will give a discount to everyone, even a stranger.
    By the way, your blog is looking just great, very professional. I have been lazy and only updated my blogroll now. I had deleted the old one, but not put this one on! Today being Friday and no-post day tomorrow I have been doing some back-end work.
    Great going Laksh!

  9. @Nita: Thanks!! Agree with you on the supermarkets. It just happens that the mom and pop shops around here know us well because we have been going there every week or so for the past 7 plus years. Its those little things that make me smile at the end of the day.

  10. Hey Laksh, been a while since I dropped in here. Well, like all others here, I believe that mom & pop shops or annaachi kadais are definitely closing up thanks to big giants. Personal touch is reducing quite a lot. But as u said, when I was back there…the lady who helped out at the sewing dept at walmart actually learnt my name and A’s. She used to say hello to us each time we were there. Guess people are people wherever they are. It is the effort they put in…but in a supermarket, I suppose we cannot really expect that much!
    Regarding the price rise…trust me, things are no better here. Inflation touching 7% and prices are double now since Dec 07-Jan 08…The news channels and papers are full of data on this. No wonder price is now $22 a bag there!

  11. @Apar: True but it is nice when we do run into those places where people remember you by name and develop a personal relationship in addition to business.

  12. I think I know which retailer you are referring to. I was picturizing him talk throughout the time I was reading your post. Munnadi Royal India, ippo Usha Groceries thaane?

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