Very, Berry Good


I am doing my weekly vegetable shopping; my eyes fall on lovely, green gooseberries.

We Indians pickle gooseberries, grind them into chutneys or eat them raw, with a little salt.

My mouth waters when I see these beautiful berries. I quickly unroll a plastic bag from the dispenser and fill it with gooseberries.

As I stand in the checkout line, I smile as I remember how we loved these small berries as children.

Just outside our school, was a street hawker, who sold all kinds of berries. She was usually seated on a stool in front of a small table, where beautiful triangular mounds of berries called out to young children.

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              The Indian Jujube
   Courtesy – http://www.maalaimalar.com

The measuring of these berries was done using small metal containers called ‘padis’ – a measuring system that goes back hundreds of years, and which was still prevalent when I was growing up. There were measuring containers of different sizes, each priced accordingly.

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     The padis used for measurement
       Courtesy – http://www.thehindu.com

The lady usually had an assortment of berries, all in vibrant colours – Naga Pazham (Jamun), Vicki Pazham (a local wild berry), Elantha Pazham (Indian Jujube) and Gooseberries.

We usually bought an assortment for 25p. With our school bags slung on our back, we would receive the berries in our palms, and bite into them lazily, as we took the bus home.

The Naga Pazham usually coated our tongues purple, and we would sometimes pretend that we had worn lipstick, by applying the juice on our lips.

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                  The Naga Pazham
          Courtesy – http://www.agrifarming.in

The wizened, old lady who sold these berries, was there as long as I can remember. She must have sold thousands of berries to school children over the years.

She did not speak much, but just cackled out the price, when asked. She had a jute bag, under which our coins would disappear. During winter she wore a scarf and a shawl, but she was always there, come rain or shine.

I come back to the present and feel a tingle of anticipation when I think about eating the gooseberries I have bought.

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