Having spent the last two weekends familiarising myself with the locality of N., I am slowly getting the hang of shopping. The town has a supermarket within walking distance of my house, but some things remain elusive. After dealing with the language barrier and the fact that English is not spoken by everyone, I have finally discovered where to buy the basics of life:
- butter – bought from the baker’s, of course!!!
- yoghurt (or curd) is stocked in the vegetable shops – still not entirely sure whether the ‘curd’ is actually yoghurt, but the internet says so…
- needles for finishing off my beanbags are found in the sewing machine repair shop – I accept there is some logic in that.
- safety pins to keep my shawls in place – after a few days of battling to keep them on my shoulders I discovered the well-kept Indian secret of using safety pins – come from the shoe shop. Not entirely sure of the reason, but maybe safety pins come in handy when shoes fall apart…
- leggings… that’s another story. Another pair so tight only a chicken can fit in – there must definitely be something wrong with my calf muscles. And some of the new clothes I bought in India seeped so much dye in the washing machine that it would be enough to colour the whole of the Ganges in various shades of rainbow.
- I have discovered where they hide the delights of cheese (plastic variety in little wrappers, but who cares…); frozen peas (not quite Bird’s Eye quality) and sweetcorn. I have sampled frozen chicken – more bone than flesh – and know that when I can stomach it, fresh chicken can be had.
- Living (almost) next to a local hotel with a good restaurant means I can indulge in delicacies such as parathas (plain or stuffed), naan breads etc. but I must resist the temptation to have too many take aways though.
- fish… well, even accompanied by a local teacher I ended up with a week’s supply of prawns. When the lady selling the prawns at the fish market pointed to her two piles of prawns, quoting prices of 50 and 100 rupees, I assumed she meant the price per kilo. Not that I noticed any weighing scales, but then again, I was not looking. As the prawns in the more expensive pile looked much bigger, I opted for those as I intended to buy a handful to add my egg-fried rice supper… I was surely not expecting her to immediately wrap up the whole heap in newspaper and hand them over to me in exchange for my 100 rupee note. It took me a whole hour to wash (yes, they came with fresh sea sand attached, so maybe it is just as well they are not sold by weight), clean, behead, and peel the mound of prawns on my kitchen worktop. On the upside, I had a rather tasty prawn curry for my supper, added numerous prawns to my egg-fried rice the next day and still have some in the freezer to use later on this week.. And all of this for £1 and so far no ill effects… No need yet to unpack the Immodium.
However, it may be wise to learn at least some local lingo, starting with the numbers -especially big ones – in Malayalam. For some reason the cost of my vegetables has increased exponentially now that I go out shopping without ‘chaperones’ and having sleeves put in tops is definitely more expensive because I am English… I think I understand enough of the body language, interaction and facial expressions of other customers to know when I am being diddled. At least I have found a really nice and kind man who sells me two big and tasty bananas for just 7p (7 rupees); now that is a place where I shall visit again….