Wednesday and Saturdays are the market days in Ponda. My wife believes that we get better quality and variety vegetables on those days and expects me to visit the market and get the best. I try to pretend that I have forgotten about the market and open the news paper. She snatches the paper from my hand and thrusts a shopping bag. I obey the orders, go to the market and bring back a bagful. My wife empties the bag.
“Why did you bring French beans?”
“They were fresh and tender. Price was also very reasonable”
“But didn’t you remember eating it yesterday and also the day before? I just managed to clear what you had brought last week and you have purchased another two kilos. What will I do with them?”
I have no answer. She goes to the next item.
“Brinjal. They look at least a week old. Look at the stalk. Brown. How many times have I told you to buy Brinjal only if the stalk is green. I send you to the market hoping to get good vegetables and you bring this rubbish.”
“Forget Brinjal. I have brought ‘Paalak’ also(spinach). You wanted ‘Paalak’ didn’t you?” - me
“I did tell you to bring ‘Paalak’ but it does not mean that you have to bring it even if it is rotting. You act like ‘Peddu Gunda.’” (meaning the hero of the story ‘Gunda the idiot’ - Gunda’s granny sent him to work and he was given some butter as wages. He brought it home in his hands in the hot sun and it had melted and gone by the time he reached home. Granny said what was given to him should have been placed in a container full of water and brought home. Next day he was paid wheat flour as wages. He poured it into a container full of water and brought it home………… so on the story goes)
She takes a short break to regain her breath and continues
“Today being Wednesday I was hoping that I will get good vegetables and that I need not bother about buying vegetables for another week. You have brought three items out of which two are useless and one that we have eaten all of last week. And what I wanted most was coriander and lemons both of which you have forgotten. Oh my god. When will you understand me?”
This is a sample conversation which follows my arrival from the vegetable market. Items, adjectives and exclamations may vary but the gist and tone is generally the same. So, now I have learnt. This week I refused to go to the market unless she came along. We went to the market together.
We were about to enter the vegetable market when she remembered that we had to stock up on groceries and some other stuff too. Since we were close to the super market we decided to go there first.
To save time (and to shop peacefully) we parted at the entrance, one to go clockwise and the other anticlockwise. We met somewhere in the middle and looked into each other’s shopping baskets.
“You got Clinic anti dandruff! Nice. I had emptied the bottle the day before but had forgotten about it.” - Me
“I saw you throwing the empty bottle. I know that you do not use any other shampoo and these are not always available. So I took two.”
She saw the handle of the broom sticking out of my basket.
“You noticed that the broom had worn out! I never knew you looked at such things. I had been meaning to buy a new one but I always forget. Good that you took it.”
I looked deeper into her basket.
“Apricot jam! wonderful. I did not know that new stock had arrived. I was fed up of that mixed fruit”
“I know that you hate mixed fruit and that’s why the moment I saw this I picked it up.” -wife
Now her eyes fell on the ‘Shrikhand’ ( a sweet) I was holding in my other hand and she looked lovingly at the jar containing the next half kilo of her weight.
“Oh, Chitale Shrikhand, Mango! Where did you get it? I did not see it in the cold store.”
“I noticed that you like to have some dessert after dinner these days and I also know that you love this. It was being unloaded from the van just now. I requested and got a jar. They have not stocked it in the fridge yet.”
So on and so forth our exchanges went. We had almost read each other’s minds and got everything that we required. Great team work. How well we understand each other! It was a lovely feeling.
We carried the two heavy baskets to the billing counter but we did not feel the weight at all. We deposited the bags on the counter and the clerk billed them. I was very happy with our new found camaraderie but at the same time I was a bit uneasy. This was not like us. Somewhat unnatural .
“One thousand six hundred and forty eight” said the billing clerk.
My wife looked at me and nodded, asking me to pay.
“You pay. I only have about two hundred rupees with me” - Me
“How will I pay? I haven’t brought my purse. Haven’t I told you that I will not carry my purse when you are with me?”
“But I have told you at least hundred times not to be a fool and always carry money with you. Now don’t blame me.”
“You are the one who was supposed to visit the market. I joined you only to make sure that you buy good vegetables. It was your responsibility to keep enough cash”
“Vegetables were my responsibility. I have enough for that. I did not expect you to buy half the super market”
By now those behind us in the line were getting jittery though happy with a bit of free entertainment to break the monotony of waiting. Some necks had stretched forward to catch our words better. My wife hissed.
“Everyone is watching us. It is so embarrassing. You always put me in such situations. Now leave those baskets there on the counter. Go home and get some money. I am going to the vegetable market.”
She snatched the two hundred from my hand and rushed out. I came out of the supermarket and as I started the scooter I was feeling normal once again. We had got over our understanding phase and everything was fine!