Ever since MM left, I’ve stopped going to the supermarket. It’s not like I haven’t been to a supermarket since then – they’re too ubiquitous for that! But I’ve stopped going there on a regular basis for monthly/weekly grocery buying trips. I get everything at my little corner store – Champa’s shop.

It’s located right outside the apartment block, so I can just get off the auto in the evening and walk in to buy whatever I need. Or, in the middle of something, I can just go and come back in a minute. And if I’m too lazy/dirty/underdressed even for that, I can call him up and he’ll send up what I need.

He remembers what I’ve bought two days before, so he makes sure I don’t end up with 32 bottles of Ezee. He also remembers what I’ve not bought, so ensures that when I buy baking powder, I also buy vanilla essence. I keep going there, so I get served quickly when I’m in a hurry. He gives me change for the auto even when I’m not buying anything. He recognises my voice on the phone, which always feels good. I don’t know where things are in that little shop, but they always appear on the countertop when I ask for them – from Harvest Crunch to kothmir to pencils. If he doesn’t have it, he’ll get it for me the next day.

Actually, there’ve been many Champas in the various places we’ve lived; it’s just that we gave up going to them when The Supermarket came in. Food was packed and clean. We could buy it off the shelf instead of waiting to be served. But the food stopped being so fresh, too. And if it wasn’t on the shelves, it wasn’t there at all. There were queues at the billing counter, and no one cared if you were in a hurry. Home delivery only between 10 and 4 on weekdays. (Pah! Like anyone wanted it then!) Most of all, no one asked after the family, gossiped about what I was cooking, or smiled in any but a completely plastic manner.

Thankfully, I realise the importance of Champa’s again. The jobs he provides, the livelihoods that depend on it – maybe sometimes I think of those. But the convenience of his being at our doorstep, the spice of gossip, the freshness of his vegetables – I weigh those in the balance against how long it takes to buy something, against how exasperating he can be at times. Champa wins.


One Response

  1. I agree…. Stupid Pure O’ Natural gave me infested peaches yesterday.

    And the guy there turned his nose up when I asked him for Indian fruit as opposed to Apples from New Zealand or Washington(?). Said, it’s not apple season in India….. I used to get Indian apples 12 months a year at home…. Boo hoo…

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