On a recent visit to Nashik, Maharashtra, a city famous for its silver jewellery, grapes and cool climate we enjoyed the city and its grape cultivation. Expanses of vibrant green with small bubble like clusters beginning to hang out from the vines, it was a surreal escape from the city noise and traffic. My Aunt Pushpa (to whom I dedicate this blog as she is no more) got us little packets of deliciously sweet golden brown raisins as treats when she came visiting. ‘Eat raisins, they are good for your brain, study well’ she would say. ‘Of course, there is no return home without buying some raisins’, I chuckled, after buying some grape wine and grape-vine.
Now though most Kirana shops and dry fruit stores would stock this, I wished to buy like the locals, from a vendor at the market. ‘Head straight to the crowded Nashik Main Road market’ said some shopkeepers. ‘ If not raisins, you can buy dress and sarees’ laughed another.
The road was a bustling street market lined with cotton towels and colourful cheap dresses hung on makeshift wire poles from one end of the street to the other. Cotton towels in bright colours orange, green and yellow, jeans and leather belts screamed for attention too. ‘Cheap and best Madam /Bai’ screamed the vendor, his pitch rising above the noisy traffic of two wheelers.
Entering the main square of the old and bit historic market I stood in awe! Teeming with mostly women dressed in sarees or salwar suits, carrying big shopping bags tucked under the arm, they seemed all equipped and ready for their specific purchases. From China ware cups and tea glasses, plastic buckets and mugs, synthetic sarees, school uniforms, cheap slippers and handbags…this market was home to all! Prices were negotiable and slightly cheaper than the expensive malls and other markets in the city. No wonder college students, young women made up a larger percentage of buyers here.
A majestic, old brown stone building ( maybe British era?) with high semi circular arches on the ground floor seemed to stand tall telling tales from the past. Presently, the building is a city community office. In the same row were a couple of smaller two storyed buildings. The periodic, long rectangular shaped doors and gracefully decorated verandah framework spoke of rich its owners. The wooden lattice framework, the sloping roof tiled with rust coloured baked mud tiles gave a distinction about the area surrounding the market. These were houses belonged to rich merchants of a bygone era. Today the buildings survive in neglect, but prime expensive land it is!
Could I spot even a single vendor selling ‘kishmis’ or raisins? A variety of daily need items were sold in this market but there was no sign of the humble, popular fruit. Some shoppers joked ‘Go to a dry fruit store and buy, same price, maybe better quality.’
Just then I spotted a middle-aged man, sitting low on his plastic stool. Gently pouring handfuls of kishmis into paper bags he handed them to his eager customers and counted his cash. Hmm…golden yellow, plump and juicy kishmis. For the past 5 years every evening this raisin man makes his roadside stall after attending a morning job at a canteen. Adjusting his stool and basket of raisins, he sits restfully. But, the world goes by in a frantic hurry. Why? he ponders.
Yumm…juicy, sweet raisins. I stuff few packets into my bag. There’s no more Aunt Pushpa to bring me these treats and feed my brain. And I bid farewell to the raisin man and Nashik.