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A travesty!



It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!





Twice in my lifetime, I was directly involved in Vegetable trade, wholesale. Even though a person viewing me from outside wouldn’t know the exact complexity that I was dealing with, the fact was that this was a very deep world of business. Actually, when I used to arrive in my base town (not my home town) in the morning hours, after unloading the lorry at the vegetable wholesale market, and wander around in my unkempt clothing, the casual and uninformed observer would only see a person who was literally a loafer. At that particular time, I was staying in a place, where in the daytime, business activity would be done, and night-time would be my sleeping place. The actual fact was that the previous day, I would be a wholesale market in a neighbouring state (some 500 or so kilometres away), having the loading done, and travelling in the night, and arriving in the early morning hours.

That much for impressions.

Let me take the case of my dealing with the Bangalore Wholesale Vegetable Market. I had to deal with this place twice in my life. The first was at a very small level, and the second at a higher level, but both for extremely brief periods.

The very going there in the unearthly hours of around 4 am, and seeing the twilight zone scene of an immensity of lorries arriving from afar loaded with different type of vegetables was in itself a great experience for my school and college educated tiny brain. Each of these lorries would be carrying a specific vegetable. The senders of these cargoes were the farmers from different places in the state. There was a lot of information to be understood about the crops, the harvesting, the timing, the seasons, the rainfall, the dry seasons, the farmers’ expectations, their apprehensions, the various agents who takeover the cargo once it is inside the Wholesale market premises etc.

Once the cargo is in the hands of the agent, there is nothing much the farmers can do about the way it is sold. The cargo is literally in an unattached state, in the hands of the various market forces. Now, I have seen that this so-called market forces can be and do be manipulated and doctored. Even if the farmers do know it, and do foresee it, there is nothing they can do about it, unless they are themselves capable of outmanoeuvring these doctoring. The latter possibility is more or less an improbability in the case of most farmers.

Apart from all this, there are issues connected to the vehicle itself, its load carrying capacity, statutorily allowed load weight, permits, sale tax issues (perishables do not come under the sales tax plunder, but still the possibility that vehicles carrying perishables can smuggle things that do need permit would have its negative impact, if one were to don an attitude of a higher individuality than the sales tax thugges), the driver’s capacity, his individual weaknesses and frailties, the other persons in the vehicle, including the cargo owner and the cleaner (non-statutory title of an attendant to the driver, lending him leadership at his level) etc. Availability of eateries and motels, places for bathing, and other conveniences, also is issues that are slightly there, and can become major issues on odd occasions.

Next item that was also learned by me, was the daylight robbery in the night-time by the Indian policemen. They stand in roadsides and if the commercial vehicle is having a non-home-state licences plate, it is invariable flagged down. The driver has to give a sum, which need not be very high. It is all part of the game and if one is ready to play by the rules, there are actually no worries in this regard.

Other minor issues which may or may not come to the fore are tyre puncture and battery problems. The drivers usually know about the whereabouts of the type puncture repair shops and of the auto-electricians. However, if the farmer is a novice in this field, he may take a driver with him who may not know such things, and at odd times this issue can really be a powerful thing that decides if the load reaches the market in time. Precision of time is a critical element. For one thing, if the vehicle is delayed, it would not get the correct price, for the buying starts quite early, and there would be not much buyers, and practically no demand. However, beyond that, there is another more terrible issue. The vehicle may not even be able to enter into the market, with so many smaller vehicles entering the market and going out with the goods after buying them. Moreover, many of the fully loaded vehicles would even be taken out without being unloaded, as the cargo could have been bid for and bought, and needs to be send elsewhere.

Beyond all that, there are restrictions on the entry of these big vehicles into Bangalore city areas after daybreak. The night-world is quite different from the day-world. It may be understood that when one mentions the word ‘nightlife’ of a city, the formally educated persons immediately associate it with another theme. However, there is this theme also about which the classroom educated persons never know about nightlife in a city.

Now coming to the world of vegetables, there is the quite fascinating theme of variety. First of all there is an immensity of vegetables that were present in the Bangalore Vegetable Wholesale market. Now, when I mention the words Bangalore Vegetable Wholesale Market, there is a discrepancy there itself. I have gone to the Bangalore Vegetable Wholesale Market with a relative of mine. However, that Wholesale market is not the one that I am speaking about. That one is a place the people go for buying things in more than a few kilos etc. For example, in the ordinary market if the price is Rs. 25, in this Wholesale market, if you buy some ten kilos, you would get it for Rs. 19.

However, the other Wholesale market that remains invisible to the majority local residents is a place where the buying is in 100 and 1000 of kilos, usually (not necessarily always). Where what you buy in the retail shop for Rs. 25 costs Rs. 8. However, you would need to buy in hundreds to thousands of kilos.

Now coming back to variety of vegetables, the scene is quite kaleidoscopic, in its content, colours, shapes, arrangements, noises, movement and activity, and haggling. Everything has a definite code.There was an immensity of vegetable, many of them, or rather most of them quite unfamiliar to me. For a person who was native of Kerala, many items were quite exotic. The very knowledge of the various names of the immensity of vegetables was in itself a technical or subject knowledge. Apart from that, almost each of the individual vegetable had different varieties and names, some depending on their colour, size, shape and even taste. Then there were differences visible depending on the places where they were grown. For example, there was onion, coming in two quite different shades of red, from two quite different growing areas.

Now, about the trading system, also there was much information to be had. Many of the items were sold on a system of auction. There were agents for that. The agents would get a specific percentage, whatever the price at which an item was sold. In the systems of agents also there was the presence of assistance and others of their staff. There was an unwritten code among them that was aimed at hindering and blocking the entry of new traders to the scene, and also new suppliers of an item which was already being supplied by some other steady connections. All of this was aimed at maintaining a steadiness to the system and relationships.

Even though it may seem easy to make an entry into the trading scene, the unwritten code also included that there were specific hierarchies which had to be followed and emphasised. Any person entering inside the scene with a different mental hierarchy could be a disturbance and distraction to the social relationship inside the scene, unless he is there only for a brief period.

To see that the newcomers who do not fit in are filtered out, an auto-mechanism seems to note and register their presence. In the guise of helping, lending assistance and advice, some persons would enter into the scene and literally make the trading go haywire. However, persons who have the financial acumen to withstand the first reversal of fortunes and business reputation can overcome all these and become steady. However, in most cases the newcomers are financially weak persons who understand the frill elements of the business, and try to make a immediate profit in the first deal. They get wiped out, and the taste of this decisive defeat would be more terrible than they can withstand.

Beyond that, if a newcomer enters the market with an agricultural produce from a long distance, which is already being supplied here by another person, a particular type of market mechanism is made to play out. On the very day the newcomer arrives with the produce, the market prices are made to crash artificially. The newcomer wouldn’t at first understand what had suddenly happened and would literally have to bear witness to his items being sold heavily below standard market prices.

These are all knowledge that comes with experience and exposure, in the same manner a child learns to do arithmetic sums correctly after making a series of mistakes

Then there are things to be learnt about the art of bidding, inspection of products, knowing at which time of the year, which produce would have demand in which place. Contact with the various markets elsewhere, and with the agents therein is also acquired information. Apart from all that, there is also the frill requirement to have link with lorry brokers, who can arrange vehicle at much discounted cost by way of return lorry freight.

It would be wise to have ideas about loading also, even though the loading workers in the market would have the requisite idea about this. For, there are different issues connected to different kinds of vegetables. For many of them cannot withstand heavy pressure. Some have time limits, and some cannot be carried through certain climatic conditions without impairment of quality.

Take the issue of Tomatoes. There are a few varieties. Some cannot be used in curries, and some cannot be used as sauce. Different varieties have different rates of perishing.

Now, this much I have written. If the reader feels that he or she has understood the complexities of wholesale vegetable business from this meagre writing, I should caution that the reader has not got any idea of the scene. The only way to understand the real feel of the trade is not by simply going to the market place and viewing it. Such viewings can help a person get a doctorate, on a study of this scene. However, to really understand the feel and width of the business, I would suggest that the person do the trading for some time.


Now how much time would it take a person to really study the scene to become a sort of graduate in this field (not a master)? Well, I think six months exposure and experience would be enough. Now, let us compare this with the time a college going student would require to learn graduate or even post graduate level Nuclear Physics. It is my considered view that a reasonably intelligent person can study it within six months, or even less. No need for three years. However, graduation in the colleges are not in Nuclear Physics, but in Physics, which is a mixture of all kinds of Physics, all of which never reaches anywhere and no logical explanation is there as to what the young man is going to do with this kaleidoscopic mix of subjects.

I wrote so much about one single item to denote that each one of the items in the list also has superb complexity.

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