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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chennai - Koyambedu Market

While going to or coming from deep South, I make it a point to make a prolonged halt at Chennai to corner some comforts at my younger brother’s place.  Apart from my rendezvous within and around the city with a chauffer driven vehicle, I enjoyed going to the market with my sister-in-law and my niece as well on few occasions. I am not talking about the Super Bazaars or Malls but the real Indian market selling vegetables, fruits and flowers. Did I mention that my brother stays in the SAF Games Village in Koyambedu (an upcoming suburb), perhaps I forgot in my anxiety to let you know the kind of treatment I had.  So there I was and very close to the largest Market in Asia.

Koyambedu is a wholesale vegetable/fruit/flowers market on which the whole Chennai city depends. The market itself is spread out in 295 acres (1.19 km2) and is named as "Koyambedu Wholesale Market Complex (KWMC)". The market has two blocks for vegetables and one each for flowers and fruits. In fact the activity begins here with the arrival of lorries/trucks with perishable goods around 3.00 in the morning and by 4 or 4.30, thousands of retailers from the city come and get the stuff for their own outlets within the city. There are more than 3000 shops within the complex and during the day time, it’s the retailers there who take over while wholesalers have a nap. On an an average some  1,00,000 people visit this market everyday.

Some kind of religious function was organized at home and a variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers were needed. This kind of shopping is generally in the domain of the 'Lady of the House' but she was kind to take me along. I was also too eager  lest the opportunity of taking some photographs gets lost.

To begin with, we entered the sprawling complex (not in terms of imposing structures but area wise), from its left side which was closer to the Vegetable blocks. I was just amazed. I could not believe that there could be such a large area only for vegetables. I got reconciled soon for they needed space for parking trucks in the morning and in fact some were still there. There were rows of shops outside as also within and you need to seek directions for a particular item because they seem to specialize and feel comfortable in dealing in a single item  as the photographs here would suggest. 
Pumpkins of various kinds
We needed pumpkins but not as large as those displayed. They were also reluctant to make a piece out of one to serve our limited purpose. We moved out and saw watermelons at one place but here again they were too big.
Then we sought directions and finally reached a place where we could get in smaller quantities.While finding our way we had to pass through a line of shops where the pathway was full of filth. They are the left overs after the morning sales. I felt too bad for this kind of littering but later on discovered some information which consoled me.
When I talked to the people sitting there, they apprised me that the collection van is yet to come who will collect the waste and clean the pathway.

A bio-methanation plant at the market complex set by Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority generates power from vegetable and fruit waste collected from the wholesale market. The plant has the capacity to convert 30 tonnes of waste per day into 2,500 units daily. About 150 tonnes of waste is collected daily and after meeting the requirement of power generation, the rest is converted into manure for which a separate area of about 1.75 acres is made available. Some of the waste like banana stems gets recycled.

After making our purchases we summoned our vehicle and drove to the other side where the fruit market was located. Since it was midday there were not many people around. Although many photographs were taken, I am placing them selectively. The fruits follow.
When we came out of the fruit market, there was a person selling the above stuff on the outer pathway. We could not understand what it was and the explanation given was too inadequate. On a reference being made to one of  my nieces working with All India Radio, Chennai,  she advised  “they are the roots of the  palm tree. People generally dig under the roots of the palm  or when the palm is cut they take out the tuberous roots. Palm roots are tuberous as tapioca etc. and they sell them. I my self have eaten them. It is said the palm roots are cheaper but richer dietary supplement, richer in in fibre. It is steam-boiled to  cook.The outer layer of the skin is peeled off and is taken. Not particularly delicious, but ok. In Tamil it is called 'panam kizangu' ”

Once again we move to a different wing which is square in structure with pathways as usual but you will only find flowers. Incidentally South Indian ladies are very fond of flowers which they use for dressing up. There is a lot of demand for worship in temples as well. This too is one of the largest flower markets in India.
The vendor is hiding his face
Now it was time for us to move out and stood outside waiting for the vehicle to come and fetch us. My niece trying to shield her from the scorching Sun with that piece of cloth known as Dupatta. Probably she did not relish being photographed in that attire.
We did not venture into visiting all the wings as it seemed to be formidable at that time. May be we were hungry.