City Landmark – Mittal Store, Pragyakunj, Vasundhara
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Nowadays just about anything can be purchased online or at huge shopping malls, right?
No wonder that small family-owned shops are declining—with some notable exceptions.
Mittal Store in suburban Ghaziabad (Pragyakunj, Vasundhara) in the Graeter Delhi Region is crammed with a dizzying array for households. Ranging all the way from washing detergents and instant noodles to hawan samagri and whole coconuts for homely pooja ceremonies.
Despite its plenty, Mittal exudes the vibe of a comfy grocery around the corner, here in a middle-class neighbourhood across the lane from the petite Shiv Shakti Mandir. In fact, the store started on this spot way back in 2003. The area then had only a handful of apartment complexes compared to dozens of these so-called “societies” today. And there was no Delhi Metro then.
“My shop was very, very modest,” agrees grocer Ashwini Mittal, 46, with a good-natured shrug. He makes a point of keeping up to date with the needs of his regulars and knows many of their families, referring to elderly women as “maataji” or “auntyji”. Meanwhile, hundreds of households in the area have tucked away his phone number for free deliveries.
The grocery shop becomes extraordinary because it is more than just the feel-good story of its founder. It eloquently illustrates the social evolution of this part of the National Capital Region. At one time, for instance, it stocked nothing more than some common varieties of rice and lentils, along with bottles of sarson ka tel and aamla hair oil. But now there is all of that, plus boxes of peanut butter and mayonnaise sauce and jars plastered with labels like “Pasta Alfredo with Cheese”.
Asked why his shop just thrives and thrives amid all the malls and online shopping, the chatty Mr Mittal is suddenly struck speechless.
After a long pause, his face blushing red, he mumbles uncertainly, “Mera vyavahar (my behaviour)?”
For now, Mittal Store is more than merely holding its own. Aptly reflecting the spirit of the neighbourhood and local lifestyles, it’s a true hyperlocal wonder.
The shop around the corner