December 20, 2021
I have observed that most villagers who move to cities for better prospects, tend not to notice or appreciate the simple customs, practices and social institutions of the village. The village vendors is one such example. They are a fascinating section of our traditional society. Although I grew up outside India, I have learnt to appreciate and cherish these customs and traditions of my native village Pangala/Pamboor in Udupi District.
Similar to my previous three articles titled ‘The Other side of City Life’, ‘Embracing the Monsoon Season’ and ‘My Parish Feast’, in which I tried to describe rural life in my village, in this article too I would like to describe another aspect of village life - the “Village Vendors”. The fact that my maternal grandparents live in a village has lent me an opportunity to spend more time with them over my holidays, learning about how people support their families through different trades.
For those of us who now live in the city, we may be most accustomed to the neat aisles of packaged glory that you can find at the supermarket chains that have become a part of our daily lives. But In the villages, however, you can find a different type of retail activity, like the weekly market ‘Saanth’ where you find organic produce, vegetables, fruits, spices and pulses grown on the farm. Vendors travel from all over the nearby villages to display and sell their goods. While the market is noisy due to vendors yelling around to catch customers' attention, the buzz is creating an ambience which I have come to enjoy.
Local ‘kirana’ stores (Retail stores)
Generally, food and FMCG products were sold in small family-run and independently owned stores in villages. It usually involves packaged essential food items, toiletries, eggs, bread, spices, rice, salt, cooking oil, etc., and things that could be purchased without any offer but most people buy these on a monthly or weekly credit account and pay as per the terms.
Restaurants in villages offer a wide range of authentic flavors. It is named as "Hotel" and serves a generic set menu of breakfast such as poha, upma, banana buns and idly with chutney and sambhaar. Likewise, the lunch time menu mainly consists of vegetarian or seafood thaali’s. In the evenings, kadak chaa (tea) or coffee with potato bonda, sweet potato dishes, masala dosa and various other fritters. Each item is reasonably priced. It's a challenging job for these restaurant workers as they start around 4 or 5 am and close at 9 pm.
Stand-alone food cart
One of the easiest and the most affordable ways to enter the food industry is through a food cart. Food carts have low risks and small investments. The locals and mostly daily migrant workers gather here to eat evening snacks such as chaats, sweet corn, charmuri and so on. There are now some carts that serve Chinese-style food, which attracts the youth. It is only the weather and sometimes problems with licenses that pose a threat to these operators.
Sugarcane juice vendors
As everyone seeks to cool off the heat during summer, sugarcane juice vendors prepare ice cold beverages. They position themselves at prominent places in the village market or town. Their daily routine involves buying bulk sugar canes from wholesale markets and extracting juice and serving them to the customers.
Sale of fish door to door - Fishmongers
This is probably one of the most difficult jobs I have ever seen; women walk miles upon miles carrying fish baskets on their heads. Their logistic arrangements are spot on, as they have their own routes and regular customers. They deliver limited and selected fresh fish and in some cases, they also dress it to give it to the customers.
Village tailors maintain a good relationship with their customers and stitch and deliver the clothes to their homes on time. It seems likely that the trend has changed since the majority of people opt for readymade garments. There are however many loyal customers who continue to stitch school uniforms, alter clothes, sofa covers, window curtains, etc.
This type of business which is typically conducted by one community, has been passed down from generation to generation, and is still operational today in villages.
Traders collect raw cashew nuts during summers. They are sorted for export by size, quality, and weight. Mangoes are also available during the summer season. It takes a couple of months for mangoes to ripen after a mango tree blooms. During this time, traders contact tree owners to buy the entire crop.
In the remaining months, the traders sell a variety of products like stainless steel and aluminium kitchen utensils either by direct sales or by exchanging the old for the new and collecting the difference. Also, in specific months, empty bottles, used newspapers, and scrap materials are collected, and people will store and secure them.
Apart from the above trade, many people live off the sale of their own organic vegetables, homemade pickles, pure ghee, honey, coconut oil and so on. Several door-to-door services are also available for the elderly in the village, such as hair cutting, knife sharpening, shoe repairs, bangle sales for ladies, bed sheets, door mats, and sarees.
Spending time in western countries and cities, people discover that the realities of life in rural areas are quite different from those in urban areas. There are lots of challenges, such as poor power supply, dusty roads, mosquito bites, and limited internet access. However, rural life is generally peaceful, enjoyable, and filled with natural beauty.