Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Shopping for Butter

There is a small grocery not far from my flat in Pune where I shop for daily needs – fruit, milk, bread and, sometimes, butter.  These small “kirana” stores are like old-time groceries in the USA where the shopkeeper sits behind the counter and retrieves the items you ask for.   Here’s a recent exchange.

"Hello sir.  How are you today?" I say. 
“It’s a good day. What do you need?” says Mr. Shopkeeper from behind his counter. 
“Do you have butter?”
“Yes, I’d like some butter.”
“You want butter?”
 “Yes, butter,” I say
 “Butter?”  he asks.  I nod. 

Mr. Shopkeeper calls out in Marathi to his “boy” to get him some butter and puts a packet of herb/garlic spread on the counter. 
“No. No. I want plain butter only.”
“Yes, this is butter.”
“No. It says Herbs and Garlic.” 
“Yes, it’s very good.”
“Maybe, but I just want simple butter.”
“You want butter?”
“Yes, butter”
“But this is butter.” 
"I want simple butter."
“Yes,” I say again, nodding. 

Mr. Shopkeeper calls out again to his “boy” who puts another packet on the counter, this time something called Nutrilite, a margarine “spread.”
“This is Nutrilite” I say, “It’s not butter.”
“This is butter.”
“No, it’s not.  See, it says ‘Nutrilite.’”
“Yes, it’s butter.”
“No, it’s not butter. It’s Nutrilite and not butter.  I want just plain butter.” 
“No cholesterol.”
“Yes, but it’s not butter.  It’s Nutrilite.” 
“No cholesterol is good.”
“Yes, but I want butter, not Nutrilite.”

By this time, the bread deliveryman, who's dropping off a few dozen loaves, can’t resist joining in.
“That’s butter,” he says, peering over my shoulder.
“No, it’s Nutrilite.  It’s not butter. They are different.”
“No sir.  It’s butter.” 
“No, they are different.”
“Yes, it’s butter.”

Mr. Shopkeeper smiles.  I take the package of Nutrilite outside into the sunshine where I can better read the ingredients and then return.
“Look here sir. See where it says ‘Fat Spread,’” pointing it out on the label.  “It’s not butter. It’s ‘Fat Spread.'”

Mr Shopkeeper and Mr. Deliveryman inspect the label closely.
“Same thing. Butter.”
“Maybe, but I want plain Amul (brand name) butter, not Fat Spread.  Do you have any?” 

Without a word, the “boy” reaches into the refrigerator and hands Mr. Shopkeeper a half-kilo block of Amul butter who wordlessly hands it to me.
“Yes, that’s fine.”  I pay for my purchases, put the butter into my sack, say “Thank you” and am on my way. 

Conclusion:  I think Mr. Shopkeeper was, in his own way, trying to be helpful.  Nutrilite is sometimes called “Nutrilite Butter” and some people actually like it.  I’m told the Herbs and Garlic spread is pretty good on toast and maybe he wanted me to give it a try.  Or, possibly,  Mr. Shopkeeper had an overstock of Nurtilite and was trying to unload it or he didn’t have a small packet of regular butter and didn't believe I’d be interested in buying a full half-kilo.  Whatever.  I found it amusing.