Not the restaurants, or monuments, and certainly not the malls, if there is one thing that gives you a glimpse into the spirit of a city or town, it’s the local market. You get to hear the dialects, see what is locally grown, sample the local food and interact with people.
Something brought home to me last month when I visited Orissa on work. We had very little time and the 3 days were spent travelling into interior districts. The morning of my departure, I took some time out and went to a village market at Gopalpur-by-sea, a popular tourist spot with hotels dotted right along the shoreline.
At that hour of day there were barely any tourists awake but the market was bustling, with village women lined up to sell fish and vegetables. Couldn’t help noticing how peaceful this place was unlike the market near my home in Mumbai where the exchanges can get rather volatile!! (I still love them though)
When they found out I was a visitor they insisted I try out the local banana (orange on the inside), a shrimp snack and coconuts. I went back to Mumbai with a bag full of bananas, chillies and vegetables. I had such a lovely relaxed last day. The best part of my trip and the best ad for Incredible India as far as I am concerned.
I remember that morning every time I visit the antiseptic food malls that are springing up everywhere in my city.