Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tender Coconut in a Street Bazaar

You are walking along a Street Bazaar absorbed in looking at the busy sweet-meat stall where you know you shouldn’t go but where your heart takes you nevertheless. You quickly turn away so as to shrug off just one more culinary temptation of the marketplace. Aromas of enticing street food waft towards you from another street corner. You tell yourself that you are not hungry, but then, you are suddenly thirsty!!

1  Welcome to Ahmedabad : the paan stalls, the farsan stalls, the chai stalls and coconut water stalls – Manek Chowk has everything.

In the Bazaar, there is no dearth of drinks to buy. Today, you can buy a bottle of mineral water anywhere. But, it’s such a waste to be in the Bazaar and to spend Rs.12 buying a bottle of mineral water!! Drinking water is what you will get yourself at home, you say to yourself. You can also buy a Coke or another cold drink. But, you look around hoping to find either a Sugarcane juice stall or a Tender Coconut seller. That’s what you get here that you don’t get elsewhere, and that’s what you want now! You find a vendor selling tender coconuts and walk up to him, standing in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of coconuts on a bicycle making brisk business in this hot afternoon. It gets you thinking about coconut-sellers and their place in the bazaar.

2  Banjara (gypsy) woman who sells bangles on D.V.G.road in Bangalore stops for a tender coconut

I look at the coconut-sellers in J.P.Nagar in Bangalore. There are two individual shops on the two sides of the road where the Mini-forest meets the Ring road. As I speak to one of these sellers, I learn that he buys a thousand coconuts each time, once in two days. There is a wholesale exchange at the Mandya at Mysore road. He sells about five hundred coconuts per day. The responsibility for carting away the waste of the coconut is that of the coconut-seller. He pays Rs.200 to have it taken away. This is also done once in two days. That’s the story of just one coconut vendor in a city of 9.5 million inhabitants in a country with a population of 1.2 billion.

3  Push-cart vendor has customers from the Brahmin café at Basavanagudi in Bangalore

You realise as you try to remember the different coconut-sellers you’ve seen and photographed that they are sometimes on a bicycle, sometimes with a push-cart and sometimes just with a bunch of cocontus that rest on the footpath. Often times, the vendor sits in the shade of a tree and sometimes he is constantly on the move, with the sun on his head for hours at a stretch. If it is a regular location, the selling space is established mostly at a corner junction, where you would have maximum visibility from as many potential customers as possible.

4  Serving those who worship the Lord: at the Bull Temple in Bangalore

The bazaar has a place for every kind of vendor, the one who walks, the one who cycles, the one who moves with his push-cart and the one who sells from a shop. The bazaar also has a space for every kind of commodity – food, drink, shoe, bangle, utensil, anything that you want to consume in a day or possess for a life time.

5  Tender coconut for the street, water melon for the home : at in Bangalore

I do a google search on ‘Coconut water’. I find the lyrics of Harry Belafonte’s song ‘Coconut woman’ that goes:
“The thing that's best if you're feelin' glum
Is coconut water with a little rum
It could make you very tipsy, four for five
Make you feel like a gypsy, four for five
Coco got a lotta iron, four for five
Make you strong like a lion, four for five”

6  Fixed Price: Rs 12 only for tender coconut (No extra charge for the shade of the tree)

Another link is to the Seminar Proceedings for ‘Coconut revival: new possibilities for the Tree of life’ held in Australia by the International Coconut Forum and it says that “More than 11 million farmers, mostly small holders with low income, grow the palm in 90 countries” Indonesia is the largest coconut producing country, followed by the Phillipines, with India occupying third place.

7  Café coffee day: 
a lot can happen over coffee 
Tender coconut: 
quenching your thirst 

Coming back to the Tender coconut vendor in the bazaar – it is a question of livelihood. He doesn’t know the Caribbean song and he does not hear what the experts discuss on Coconut. He is unaware that there are emerging new markets for “functional drinks from coconut – the sports drink, the energy drink, welcome drink and well-being drink” His life goes on and so does that of the blogger who contemplates on what goes on in the bazaar and outside of it, thinking that while a lot can happen in a street bazaar, life seems to be about quenching thirst of one kind or another.

Read about :
The Golla wallah
the Garland Makers in the Bazaar
Bollywood Posters
What is Chai


radha said...

That was a delightful post. I have on morning walks seen a lorry laden with tender coconut. They stop and just push the coconut out from the vehicle. I have no clue how they account for the numbers. The vendor then has to place them on and around his cart.

Anjali said...

It is a reassurance to know India is 3rd largest producer of coconut as I know I will have my supply of tender coconuts for years to come. I'd seen flavored coconut water in the super market and wondered what kind of a buyer would buy it in a country like India. I also must mention that during my trip to Kerala I rarely found tender coconut sold on the road and I did almost 1100 kms. Where as in Rajahmundhry, Andhra Pradesh is called coconut country not for nothing, you have all types of coconut vendors like you described at every corner. It was said the largest sized coconut comes from Calicut, not sure if it still holds the position.

Anjali said...

BTW the CCD and tender coconut pic reminds me of how there was a time when all the Hrushikesh Mukherjee movies showed young much in love couple sipping water from a single tender coconut. Such a romantic things to do. CCD can never take the place or may be I am from a different age :)

Also must mention I liked the last para, you know I am a drifter ;)

Indian Bazaars said...

Radha: Could it be that they deliver the same number every day, that way, they wouldn't need to count? Was just thinking about the vendor who said he had a thousand delivered every two days.

Anjali: I like the optimism about us have an unending supply of tender coconuts! Nice thought. I also find it surprising that in Bangalore there seem to me so many more tendor coconut vendors than in Chennai. One would think it would be the other way around.

It's nice that you remember how it was in the movies in the old days. Had completely forgotten about that.

Megha Sarin said...

WOW. I am so nostalgic now. I used to study in Bangalore for four years and have coconut water. I moved back to my place and I really miss it.

Lovely post dear.

Arti said...

Coconut water is most refreshing and the sweet water energizes you instantly... I prefer it during my travels, avoiding even fruit juices as they can be manipulated but coconut water is made naturally...

....Petty Witter said...

What an interesting post, how I wish we could obtain such a thing here in the UK, goodness only knows we are lucky to find a whole fresh coconut.

Anyway, many thanks for visiting me over at Pen and Paper, it's nice to have met you.

Sangi said...

There's a coconut seller on Nandi Durg Road who is the landmark to get to the Karnataka State Commission for Child Welfare! :-D

This to me is the ideal drink for India - no need to sterilize, just cut and drink, no worries on getting sick when a drink is sorely needed and healthy (for body and wallet!).

Got the kids hooked on using flavoured nariyal pani from the shops, I was thrilled to see that as an option in supermarkets, a nice substitute for lunch bags, finally packed well enough to send everywhere.

Good post, yet again! :-D

Neha said...

Lovely! And that photo of CCD and the coconuts, priceless!

Anonymous said...

This is such a yummazing (yummy+ amazing -coined by a friend) post!!