Home > Gastronomique, Planetwatch, Totternama > Fair Trade – At the Advancement Arena!

Fair Trade – At the Advancement Arena!

This weekend, instead of combing our usual haunts, we visited the India International Trade Fair currently underway in New Delhi. In our infinite wisdom, we decided to take the Metro rail instead of driving down to Pragati Maidan (Advancement Arena!!). But Saturday was a bad day for Delhi Metro. Trains were running late. The one we took from Dwarka Sector 9 was jam packed by the time we reached Dwarka Mor. “Minding the Gap” was impossible as we stood on each other’s toes, breathed into one another’s ears and cursed. Train attendants rushed from door to door pushing people in and closing the automatic doors. Pictures of my previous near death experiences in local trains of Mumbai flashed across my mind. By comparison, this was mere massage of tired limbs. This attempt of Delhi Metro to bring Indians together irrespective of cast, creed, gender and nationality was laudable. I had no business deploring it. Excruciating circumstances precipitate philosophic resignation. This was enlightenment! Braced against the crushing weight and odour of humanity, I wondered if it was all an illusion, a spell of “samsara”. But the hair getting into my eyes and the elbows ramming my ribs were too concrete to be a mirage. Relief came when many passengers got off at Karol Bagh. We were already late by an hour and half. As a parting shot, the disembodied voice of Metro hoped “we had an enjoyable journey” and looked forward to “seeing us soon”. This bit of sardonic wit was not lost on the passengers.

 

We had already purchased trade fair tickets at the Metro Station, and passed though security check quickly. Ravenous, we headed straight for the food court. “Bharath Ka Khana” welcomed us with open arms. The food court was littered with people occupying every available inch and digging blissfully into idlis, vadas, puttu, mutton chaps and many interesting yet unidentifiable forms of grub.

 

Watching mad maws on overdrive only amplified our appetite. The cataclysmic force of craving scattered us in different directions. I landed up at the Nagaland counter and ordered rice with pork and bamboo shoots (Rs.100.00 only). Meanwhile others explored Odisha (Orissa), Bihar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu counters. When we gathered for barter I had a plate of rice with 3 handsome chunks of pork in a near bland gravy and a paste of fish and chilies. Others had come up with Vada/ Ghughuni (Urad Dal vada and Chole)from Orissa, Litti – Chokha (Atta balls stuffed with Sattu [barley] and garlicky potato) from Bihar, Idli – Chutney from Tamil Nadu and fried fish (fillet of unknown fish coated with flour and deep fried) from Bengal. These were rapidly decimated and replaced with Vada-Pav (Maharashtra street food specialty). To drown it all we had tea (Rs. 5.00) from the Tea Board counter. Being used to milky tea, I didn’t like it much, though it was probably more authentic.

 

More philosophy! To live we all need food. For some, food symbolizes luxury and has ceased to be a necessity. Coffee table magazines and news paper supplements catering to the hyper-gastronomic anxieties of such elite flourish in metro cities like Delhi. Even though I do not belong to that elect category, the gourmet fare that they nibble at has frequently attracted the desperate foodie in me. For others, food is incidental. I do not belong to this category either. Food, to me, goes beyond the survival value and enters the realm of sensory delight, good conversation and companionship. Good food begs good company. A solitary eater, according to me, is a miserable creature. I couldn’t resist that digression. Sorry!

Satiated, we took bearings and headed for the international pavilion. Crowded! There were exhibits from Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and surprisingly Papua New Guinea. Credit cards were not accepted. We ended up buying an onyx candle stand from Karachi, Pakistan and a papyrus scroll of Isis from Egypt. The guy manning the Egyptian counter was peremptory, intent only on money and hissed Anubis, Isis, Osiris, “Balance” replying to customer queries. Entertaining…

The most interesting counter of the Trade Fair belonged to NMBA, National Mission on Bamboo Applications. Apart from promoting bamboo as food, they have innovated various light weight and durable bamboo based wood substitutes and composites, construction and structural applications. A two storey house with steel frame and walls, roof, ceiling, columns, railing, doors and windows made entirely of treated bamboo was displayed at the exhibit. The treated bamboo was termite resistant and fire proof. Installation time was a mere 48 hours and it cost only Rs.13 lakhs. There were bamboo frame exercise bicycles coupled with a dynamo which generated and stored electricity sufficient to light an entire room. Specialty mud kilns for producing high grade carbon from bamboo for use in Tandoors and activated carbon for water treatment facilities were also on display. NBMA also promotes gasification of bamboo which can be an environment friendly source of renewable heat energy and electricity.

There were pavilions from all states of India. We could only visit those of Jharkhand and Kerala besides Techmart India where industrial machinery were on display. The Trade Fair was a wonderful fusion of business and pleasure. It provided a forum for small scale industries from all states to interact with other industries and the larger public.

 My only regret was not being able to visit pavilions of North Eastern States. I was also not able to sample Haleem chicken and other specialty cuisine from Pakistan. All in all, it was an informative, fun and relaxing jaunt.

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