The thrifty vendor

It’s always nice to go back to my home town Ahmedabad, as my associations with familiar things and places run deep. Coming home is about great food. And food is high up in my list of priorities as it is for many. It is a basic need that has evolved in a complex way with many ingredients and recipes. My memories of ‘Famous Samosa House’ the corner shop vendor got me going. I bought a large lifafa of spicy, deep-fried samosas to take back home and for our studio in Delhi. With the first bite, the chilli hit me. I promptly went back and requested the samosa guy to make another batch, less spicy. He did, quite willingly. Standing there, I observed all his actions were measured. He did what he needed to do, never more. When it came time to wrap up the fresh samosas, he carefully unwound the string from the previous package and used it to tie the new parcel using the same news paper. I was impressed with his attitude – Amdavadis are engineered to save.

This sense of economy is ingrained into the entire system. Chai is boiled for a longer time so the milk thickens and the mixture becomes sweet and strong. You can drink only a small quantity of this tea which is served in a tiny glass. Yet, Gujurati thalis are known for variety of dishes. On the face of it, this seems to go against the theory of simplicity. Indians, especially in Gujarat, are very frugal about spending and how they use goods. Yet, that restraint does not enter the final presentation. This told me something crucial – we can choose to be minimal about our approach to maximize the benefits. A fantastic spread of items are served – we do not eat a lot but a bit of everything and consequently waste very little.

 On the flight back to Delhi, I met a senior management consultant. Our conversation turned to food and he told me, “I always carry my meals in a dabba with me wherever I go!” It saved money and ensured that he got a decent meal. This thrifty attitude is critical to the environment. Today’s society is driven by high consumption, which sucks us in to spend more every time. The structure gives very little importance to waste generated needlessly. So many things can be reused and so much can be saved. Every drop creates an ocean. It is in our hands – do we want a sea of waste or clear water?

By Anthony Lopez on Oct 15, 2014
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