Some years back
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Wife was not at home. I was simply lying on my bed. I looked at my mobile phone, it was already 1 pm; I thought of preparing lunch. I opened the freeze and was delighted to see some frozen chicken. I then looked for other ingredients and spices which I'm aware of for preparing chicken. Ginger, garlic, chilies, potatoes, chicken-masala, garam-masala, jeera powder, well, everything was there. But there was a small problem though, I couldn’t find even a single piece of onion in the kitchen. I thought of buying some from the grocery store downstairs. I looked at my wallet. Oh shit, I had only one piece of note in my wallet, a ten rupees one.
I took downstairs, went to the store.
"Give me some onions, bro." I asked.
"Sorry brother, no onions," The guy smiled and I got little upset.
"Aree, give me at least a couple of pieces," I pleaded.
"Sorry, we don’t have even a single piece of onion in the store"
There was one more small shop nearby. The shopkeeper there was kind of weird, a lean and thin middle aged man. I usually try to avoid him, but then, we only had two shops in the locality. I crossed the playground and went to the shop.
"Do yo have onions?"
"Yes" I was more than delighted to hear that.
"Please give me some, I have 10 rupees with me," I asked.
"No 10 rupees, you will have purchase minimum of 15 Rs," the shopkeeper said strictly.
"Sir, I only have 10 Rs with me. Please give me some."
"Okay then, give me of 15 rupees, I will pay you the remaining five in the evening"
Still no luck.
"At least give me a couple of pieces"
Pretty disappointed, I thought of visiting the nearby ATM. I walked for half a km and was outside the ATM, waiting. Those days ATM’s were quite limited, and on top of that we used to stay a little away from the main road. As expected, I couldn’t withdraw money from there. I’m kind of pessimistic by the way. So again I had to walk for another half a km to the next ATM. After withdrawing money I went to the nearby grocery store. I was confused not to get onion there as well. On the way back home I entered a couple of more shops, but nowhere I could find onion. Ultimately I went back to the same shop in our locality.
"Please give me a kg of onion," I asked.
"One kilo onion is of 150 rupees," the shopkeeper said sharply. It took me by surprise. Accordingly to my grocery knowledge it should have been of 30 or 40 rupees. I took half a kilo of onions and returned home.
It was a hell of a chicken I prepared that day. It was extremely delicious and I ate to my full. Later, while flipping through the TV remote I stopped at a News channel, there was some discussion going on about the soaring onion prices. Even though I was kind of relaxed after I realized it was not only me, the entire India was struggling to get their share of onions, but I also felt embarrassed about being so ignorant. I should watch News channels more frequently I thought.
I'm born and brought up in Assam. In our place, street hawkers selling ‘jhalmuri, peas, nuts, chanachur’ mixed with ‘chopped onions/chilies, spices and coriander leaves’ are very common. We grew up relishing such roadside refreshing crackers. I didn’t find people selling such foodstuff outside Assam though, not in Bangalore at least. But I'm pretty sure it’s available all over Kolkatta. When I visit my homeland, every time I go out in the evening the "jhalmuri and other similar street refreshments keep grabbing my attention. More than the yummy factor it's nostalgia that overwhelms me. One advantage about eating such spicy and crunchy snacks is that, one gets aware of the soaring onion prices much before the News reaches the media. Actually, in such situations, the jhalmuri/nuts sellers mix nicely chopped Muli(radish) along with the onions. The amount of Muli they mix is directly proportional to the price rice of onion. It is also a common practice that during these limited no onion days, the jhalmuri sellers would keep some finely chopped onions secretly tucked in one corner, for their special and regular customers.
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