'Super' Market!

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April 15th 2017
Published: April 20th 2017
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Supermarkets in India are few and far between; for the most part grocery shopping is done at the tiny local shops but also at some wonderfully colourful markets.

This morning we have some free time before our long train journey to Chennai (Madras) so go to visit a market in Mysore. This market mostly has fruit and vegetables on offer but we also see spices, and flowers being strung into garlands.

The market is set out in rows with produce displayed in circular baskets in perfectly balanced pyramids. Coverings are strung up above the rows to provide some shade. As we walk around the market the people who see us are at first surprised and then delighted and smile and say hello.

We notice the rows are laid out supermarket style with produce grouped together so shoppers know where to find what they want. For example there's a whole 'aisle' devoted to bananas, but not just the fruits are for sale; carefully piled banana leaves (used as a wrapping when cooking things like fish) and also the thick stems of the plant which are used in curries are also on display. Another 'aisle' is dedicated to root vegetables, onions and garlic all artistically piled. Most beautiful of all are the fruit and soft vegetables rows, all so colourful with many things I've never seen before. The market traders must think tourists so strange taking photos of piles of fruits that are so every day to them.

A few rows of this 'super' market are set aside for flowers, but these are not put to the same use we would make of flowers back home. No bunches, instead there are piles of just the flower heads and buds delivered to the market in bulk buy sacks poured out and then threaded into strings or wires ready to be used either as hair decorations for the women (beautifully scented jasmine seems to be the favourite) or as offerings at the temples and shrines. Along with these flowers there are also stalls selling powders of gorgeously vibrant colours heaped into little pinnacles on silver plates. These powders are also used at the temples or even for rubbing on the body (we've seen some women looking really jaundiced only to find it's actually yellow powder rubbed onto their faces!).

On some of the outer aisles are tin boxes filled with pulses, grains, peppercorns and spices. There seems to be a kind of hierarchy as to who gets the covetous middle aisles. These are the ones with the biggest piles and freshest looking produce. On the outer rows of the market the sellers have less fruit and veg on offer in much smaller piles, but still perfectly displayed. This I guess is the equivalent of supermarket own brands or the bargain aisles.

'Super' market shopping done we head back to our hotel to pack ready for the longest travel section of our tour, a seven to eight hour train ride!

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