Ever since the venerable minister for law and justice, and communications and information technology, Kapil Sibal said, "the government does not sell onions", people have been wondering where they can secure their household essentials from - the things that they have been used to buying for years.
Just yesterday a Delhi housewife who I know for her discernment and enterprise, was narrating her woes to me about this situation. "For years, I bought my vegetables from this charming white-haired gent in south Delhi," she said. "You know that lovely man with the posh accent who had studied at Harvard?"
" Yes," I said.
She continued: "But guess what! When I drove up to his pretty Lutyens' bungalow, I saw he had put up a sign 'Out to Lunch' even when I could SEE him sitting on his lawn, under a sun umbrella, sipping lemonade and writing poetry."
"Oof," I said. "What did you do?"
"Well, I just drove right over to his colleague next door to get the items on my shopping list," she said. "I knew they would be in stock there."
"Right," I said.
"This time the gentleman had no sign up," she said, "but he certainly looked reluctant to sell me his wares." She sighed: " Very suspicious! I could see them all piled up through the curtain"
"And what were they?" I asked.
"Oh a couple of turkeys, you know the kind that his establishment was known for, a few lemons and the usual sweeteners. The 'everyday stuff' we have been buying from these guys".
"And did you get them?" I asked.
"No," she said with a shocked look on her face. "He slammed the door on my face when I told him what I had come for. ' No no you are mistaken Madame' he said. 'We don't sell things like that any more,' Even as I tried to wedge my foot in the door.."
"What did you do then?" I asked
"What could I do?" she sighed. "My patience was running out. I called his boss, the top trader I knew, a person who for years has been an expert in selling us our staple requirements: pipe dreams, castles in the air, old wine in new bottles… things our lives would be incomplete without. 'Look here old chap,' I said 'We've been buying from your establishment for decades. Our parents and their parents bought these items from you. How can you refuse us this time? Where will we go? What will we do? What's going on?"
"And then what happened?" I asked.
"Very strange," she replied, with a hurt look on her face. "He said 'Madame, times have changed. We can't sell you all that old stuff any more. Haven't you seen the writing on the wall?' And he slammed the phone down on me."
"How rude," I said. "What DID you do finally?"
" What COULD I do?" she asked wearily. "I crossed right over to the rival shop across the street, which was stocked with every thing I required and then some more. This shop had a lovely ethnic feel to it," she trilled. "It was lit with agarbattis and festooned with marigolds. And the guy behind it looked like such a cuddly teddy bear."
"And what were they selling?" I asked.
"Lots of short-ends of the stick, a pile of bull shit and a premium space between the devil and the deep sea," she replied quite happily.