Omiyage

Monsoon in the Sahyadris is an interesting experience. It helps that it’s a quick trip: planned in a week, over in a night or two. You can wedge it into any part of a week that’s relatively free. On our way back from the ghats, we saw locals at stalls by the highway selling vegetables and fruits. They have a freshness that you seldom see at the far end of cold chains that reach us. So we bought veggies in quantities large enough to distribute to family and friends: a perfect omiyage from a trip to walk between rice paddies looking for wildflowers. I’m a little lost about what we bought: there’s a lauki (bottle gourd) visible in the upper right corner of my photo. Then, going diagonally down to the lower left corner, we see in succession a bunch of torai (ridge gourd), then a smoother skinned cousin which, I’m told is also called torai, followed by the warty karela (bitter melon), and the common as mud kheera (cucumber). There’s also a leaf there which I must have eaten, but cannot identify.

I’ve given you the names of these vegetables in Hindi, but as a bilingual family living in a state where most people speak a third language, we use a khichree of words for produce. The word kheera, for example, is replaced by kakri, which is Marathi for cucumber (oh yes, we do use English for some of the produce), mainly because that’s the word you need to use when you shop here. It has stopped occurring to me that kakri meant something completely different in the part of the country where I grew up. If you know these veggies, what do you call them?