City Hangout – Vegetable Mandi, Near Gurgaon Railway Station
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Nothing can be taken for granted, one always knew that. The ongoing pandemic has simply made this realisation bitingly real. Just as we started to emerge out of the traumatic second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and were again learning to wade into outdoorsy excursions of daily living, the new Omicron variant is now threatening to restrict this newly regained luxury.
Who knows how long one can go uninterruptedly to the Sabzi Mandi near Gurgaon’s railway station in the Greater Delhi Region. For now, it is flamboyantly decked up with the beauty of the winter’s produce. The place is a visual delight throughout the 12 months, but it is at its most colourful at this time of the year. Simply because the cold season brings a wide variety of vegetables.
This afternoon mounds of fresh carrots are arranged one upon another like pieces of wood piled up to light the fire for Holika Dahan. Then there are fresh green peas lying in small hills. So are the mountains of capsicum, as well as of cauliflower.
The sprawling mandi has a barely visible entrance by the main road that opens into a brick-paved yard. Inside, vendors can be seen replenishing their carts with profound attention, as if a painter was working on a canvas. All the vegetables here are supplied from Hansa Mandi in Gurgaon village, a vendor reveals. A potato seller, the friendly Deepak Kumar, is patient enough to reveal the origins of most of the vegetables in the mandi. “These days, aloo is coming from Agra, tamatar from Jaipur, gobi is local, pyaaz from Nashik, gaajar from UP… I don’t know about the rest!”
In the centre of the mandi, there’s a samadhi — a plaque explains that this was the cremation site of Shri Khemchand Sahu. No sabzi seller could shed light on the deceased.
A must-see sight is of shy Suman Kumar’s stall (see photo) at the entrance. He sells khada masalas along with many varieties of pastas and papads, each crammed into a gunny sack. The other visually stunning set-up is that of spice seller Tinku, who too runs his outdoor establishment near the mandi’s entrance, by a side lane. He sits right in front of a garment store, with the shop’s colourful “gamchas” hanging behind him. From a distance, it looks like as if the clothes were dyed into red, yellow and blue with the shades of the very masalas that Tinku is selling. The scene is magical.
Colour me carrot