by Swatee Jog
A lady in the market commented on Mrs.Kulkarni, as to why she had to go and buy vegetables everyday when she had a new refrigerator at home, to which Mrs.Kulkarni replied, “because they are available”.
This reminded me of the famous George Mallory quote upon being asked why he climbed Mount Everest, “Because it’s there!”
In Belgaum, it’s as simple as that. The vegetable box in our refrigerators will be half empty because most of the stuff is on the kitchen platform…in use…now!
With truckloads of fresh stuff being ferried into the city every day, why should we stock up on the greens by suffocating them in zipper plastic bags?
Belgaum is blessed with fertile soil and the resplendent emeralds that abound the fields stand testimony to the fact. A large number of vegetables are grown around the city that feeds the city folks. This way, we also manage to fade the carbon footprint by consuming local produce.
Sambra, Balekundri to the East, Yallur to the North, Kudchi , Bagewadi to the South and Uchgaon, Ambewadi area to the West, all green lands producing innumerable vegetables. A lush green coriander bunch grown between lines of other major veggies, is available today at Rs. 5. Cluster beans (gavari), French Beans, cabbage ( you can see beautiful rosettes of the vegetable on the way to Sulebhavi), Cauliflower (find them near Hindalga, Sulga, Ambewadi), Red Amaranth( Lal Bhaji), Dil (Shepu), Methi, Beet, Radish, carrots, all jostle for the consumers’ attention at the market.
Like school children being ferried to school, these vegetables smilingly arrive in gunny bags or sometimes neatly stacked together with chords, atop a Tata Ace or tiny rickshaws or those unique looking three wheelers with a strange handle.
The vegetable markets in Belgaum still have that old-worldly charm. Be it the Ganpat Galli- Raviwar Peth mega market ( where vendors refuse to sell you potatoes or onion in half Kg. portions), the Shahapur market in Dane Galli fed by the Vadgaon-Yellur produce, the Tilakwadi market (near first railway gate) which now bears some what a barren look after the VKS demolition spree, the Khanapur Road shanties relocated inside towards the Gokhale Maruti temple, the Sunday Market of Khasbag and the Shaniwar Khut area, known for the second grade stuff, almost always left over from the Saturday markets. The shops and vendors near Kelkar Bag (where a lady always relents to bargains and many times staves off the tiny chillar from your account, incurring loss to herself!) which again bear the brunt of the VKS , the area around Shani Mandir right up to Kapileshwar, all attract with the lushness of the greenery.
Small shops have sprouted in Channamma Nagar, Chidambar Nagar, Vijaynagar, Club Road and Hindwadi that flaunt veggies like they have been blanched or ….assaulted!
The tiny peas (watanyachya shenga) are a specialty of Belgaum and these sellers are found clustered around Shahapur Khade Bazaar area, Nargundkar Bhave chowk; so is the luscious green cucumber ( Kakdi…not kheera).
Belgaum also gets its greens from Gokak (special Aubergines/ Brinjals) Ghataprabha (coriander, snake gourds (padwal), bitter gourds (karela), Lauki, etc. )
Chillies of varied hues of green, the kadipatta that smells of tadka even in the market, jawari garlic ( we also get the jumbo Chinese variety which is tasteless) and other masala items are sold in bunches even today. You get a fistful ( depending on who is selling, a man or a woman, you benefit the more) of the same for as low as Rs. 5. Thin skinned Lemons are available for 4/Rs. 10 even in the heat of summer. Another summer delight that is still visible is the watermelon that ruled the city for 3 months. The Light Green Yellur variety cost us Rs. 25 each while the Emerald Green Bangalore ones came cheaper for around the same cost but bigger size. A vendor in Raviwar peth specializes in all kinds of tubers, some of whose names even I have to ask him!
Although Belgaum now has Reliance Fresh, More outlets that sell veggies, the citizens still prefer to walk down the lane and buy the fresh stuff. Even if it means grabbing a shopping bag every two days. For didn’t Mrs.Kulkarni say…Because they are available!