Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Around Chennai: Koyambedu Market

Koyambedu Market is an enormous wholesale/retail market about 10 km from the heart of Chennai. All of the markets and street stands we see in town are, in one way or another, getting their goods from this market. The market is split into three sections: Vegetable, Fruit, and Flower. The prices vary, but are incredibly cheap. They're listed in rupees and at the time of writing the exchange rate is approximately 62rs per $1. 

While walking through the market, we were stunned that so many people wanted us to take their picture. For example, this first picture is of a man who solicited a 'snap.' Not all were so insistent, but most were happy to pose or smile (or were good naturedly prodded to by their friends!)

While carrying a giant sack of potatoes!

The big root vegetables in the bottom left are yams (nothing like sweet potatoes).
Sometimes you need a LOT of garlic.

I think one of the most impressive things about this market was the sheer amount of produce that each vendor had. I have to wonder what kind of spoilage rate the guy in the picture above has, for example. I know gourds last a long time, but that's a LOT of gourds. This is something we frequently see in Chennai; even a street vendor selling watermelons will have 200 plus watermelons stacked up. I always wonder if they sell them all... 

The walkways are covered with discarded vegetable parts, sometimes reaching more than a foot deep before being cleared.

We decided to buy some mint... this was 10rs (or $0.18) worth.
Please excuse the beard...

Plenty of room for that cargo bike.

There were a surprising number of cows wandering around in, what I can only assume is, cow heaven. Definitely a good reminder to clean your veggies before eating!

One of the food stands.
After seeing the vegetable market, we hopped back in the car to head home, but fortunately our driver pointed out that there were two more markets to see. We got back out and headed across the street (below) to the fruit market.

Who knew there were that many types of bananas.

Our final stop was the flower market. Flowers are a pretty big deal in Chennai; street peddlers sell them all over town for draping around shrines or door ways, use in puja, or just for tying in ladies' hair. 

The man standing behind them (in the blue lungi) was prodding them with a stick, which is why they're laughing.

These pictures (barely) convey the massive quantities of flowers available for purchase. Each market has a "prime time" of day, where they're most busy. First Vegetable, then Fruit, then Flower. We were there during the flower time. Although the flowers were breath taking by themselves, it was even more impressive just watching the 'action.' I generally hate to include videos in posts, but this one gives you a better idea of the commotion going on as thousands of people buy millions of flowers. Make sure your sound is on...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mowing the Lawn, India Edition

When I owned a house (which I no longer do!), I was known to complain about mowing the lawn. I'd go embarrassingly long without mowing it and then rely on the lawn mower (and patience) to chew through practically shoulder height grass. In India... there are plenty of people to fill landscaping jobs; however, some of these people have better employers than others. This first guy was 'mowing' a football field sized lot outside a hotel in New Delhi.

Yes... he's cutting the grass with hedge clippers. He took fairly frequent breaks to text on his phone... but STILL. Once he completed that patch of grass, he hand carried away the clippings as well. 

This next picture is a much luckier gardener, who was using a push mower at Agra Fort. It was a two person job (the other person is not in the picture, but would use a stick to empty the clippings bucket). In this case, they were both tickled pink by my son's incredible interest in what they were doing. They even helped him jump the fence onto the the grass so he could help. (Have I ever mentioned how much people in India love children?)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Shopping Misconceptions

I recently signed up for a new much cheaper and much faster internet company. However, the new company does not provide a router. I didn't think this was an issue, because I had one from the US. Unfortunately, the technician helpfully plugged my 110v router into our 220v outlet, and immediately unplugged it when it started smoking. I was then faced with a choice... buy one locally, or wait a couple weeks for one purchased online to arrive. I went with the former. Unfortunately, between work and not really knowing where any electronics stores are, I procrastinated for several weeks until it would have been faster to just order it. Oh well, I asked one of my local staff where to go to get a router. He gave me a store name, I followed up by asking if they had parking, since parking is the hardest part of driving in Chennai. He looked at me funny and said, "No, they don't have parking. I will just call them and they will bring your purchase here."

I guess that's what I get for internally assuming that the electronics store would be a big box place, like Best Buy. I've since driven past other stores of the same chain... they are open air counters facing the street with all the merchandise on shelves behind the counter. It's like buying your electronics from a pharmacy. Also, it costs the company so little to send an employee on a two-wheeler to drop off a purchase and accept payment... so why wouldn't they?

Note: We went from paying $48/month for 8mbps down and .5mbps up with a 95gb limit to paying $20/month for 40mbps down and 6mbps up with a 75gb limit. Insanity...