A Walk Through Pune’s Oldest Vegetable Mandi In The Age Of Supermarkets

A Walk Through Pune’s Oldest Vegetable Mandi In The Age Of Supermarkets
Arundhati Bhande

This article was first published on GoUNESCO as part of their #makeheritagefun initiative which is a quarterly, distributed, volunteer-led campaign with activities organized simultaneously at cities around the world to draw attention to heritage.

The article has been republished on our website with their permission.

We meet thousands of people in a lifetime. We may remember a few, forget some and see through a lot more.

Out of the few we choose to remember, we cherry pick the ones we want to share our experiences with. We invest ourselves in them, put in efforts to understand them, pick up on their idiosyncrasies and find meaning in their stories.

The ones that we see through are the everyday men and women who lead regular, mundane lives. These people are the ones that we interact with on a daily basis, yet give a little importance to.

Do we ever take an opportunity to speak to them and know their stories?

Listen to the simple stories of the vendors of Mahatma Phule Mandai in Pune, the oldest vegetable market in the city. Generations of families have worked here, yet these people are slowly losing their daily business to swanky supermarkets. They now live in the fear of being forgotten, ignored and seen through.

A. “I am 65 years old. I am selling chillies and ginger here, since the last 50 years.”
– Kishan Bhintade

B. “All of us have a license to sell specific vegetables and spices in the Mandai. The profits are shared so that everyone earns fair.”
– Bajirao Bhandvalkar, 76 years old

C. “I avoid reading the newspaper while I am here, otherwise the customers will think I am busy and thus move on to the next vendor. Anyway, there are only a handful of regular customers who keep us going. My other hobbies include playing with my grandchildren. What else can you do at this age?”
- Bajirao Bhandvalkar, 76 years old.

D. “I have been selling vegetables here for the last forty years.”
- Sharda Kasale

E. “Gudi Padwa is around the corner, so we are selling this sugary sweet. It has been manufactured in my daughter’s factory, it’s not very far from the mandai.”

F. “Just waiting for customers.”

G. “These streamers lure the customers!”

H. “My shop is right outside the mandai, business is better there. I have come inside to have my lunch.”

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