Sunday, April 21, 2013

India cash and carry, Sunnyvale

Bay area signifies a lot of positive things for an engineer.  I've always dreamt about the place ever since I was in college, and after a few years of learning my wares at the mid-west, I moved to the west coast. San Francisco, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara and so many other small cities signify the heart of the tech population in the country.  Every lane, every street, every building in every corner, houses an engineering setup - startup or a multi-national.  When friends from other cities come over for a visit (which itself is rare when you are in the mid-west), they drool at the sight of these companies.

"Man, I need to come here."

"This is the place to be, for a techie" and so on.

The weather is cool, doesn't get into the extremes, although the winters can be colder than to your liking.  Whatever it is, there is something that makes bay area tick when it comes to engineering.  Being an Indian, unlike in any other part of the US, you would see Indians (Asians in general) in clusters in the major areas of South Bay.  Sunnyvale can be a mini Malleswaram or a mini Mylapore, with lines of Indian restaurants - some of them chains (Saravana Bhavan) and some of them local joints (India Chaat Cuisine, Madras Cafe, Chaat House, etc).  Simply waiting for a seat in these restaurants on a busy day can knock off your hunger.

Shopping in bay area in an Indian grocery store is an experience by itself.  The most popular grocery store in the area is the India cash and carry located on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale.  There is nothing Indian not available in this store.  Be it the powders - turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, different types of Rice masalas, different types of lentils, various types of rice - boiled, raw, half-boiled, par boiled, white, brown; flour - wheat, all purpose, corn and what not; vegetables - taro, sweet potato, white pumpkin, sweet pumpkin and so on.  So, there is nothing that is not available in this store.  And so, you can imagine the number of Indians shopping here.  Be it a normal occasion or a special occasion, the checkout line is a long line around the store.  So, it is better to hunt in pairs - one does the shopping and the other stays in the checkout line.  Then, you have people nudging and when you are busy trying to pick the right vegetables, a hand slips in from behind with a wry smile and a gruff "Excuse me".

Dude, what about me.  I am doing the same thing.  Patience!

You don't say anything as you are sure he is not going to listen to it.

In fact, shopping here has to be absolutely pre-planned.  If you happen to go on a weekend at about 5 or 6 in the evening, you can forget the rest of the evening.  It can be an enervating experience.  After all the shopping, the only thing you end up doing is heading to the nearest restaurant.  You are literally drained of all your energy.  It can also cause a lot of anxiety and turmoil at home.

Oh no, we have to go to India cash and carry.  We have to buy this, this and this.

OK, let's do this.  You go to this aisle.  I'll go here and so on.

I mean, I have never been involved in a first hand shopping plan like this.  Who would sit and strategize how to shop at an Indian grocery store.  But trust me, if you live in Sunnyvale and you end up shopping at this place, you too would plan.

"OK, I'll cook for the evening.  I'll put the clothes in the washer and dryer.  I'll clear up the kitchen as well.  But, you should go to India cash and carry", I would say.  I think this is still a fair deal than doing the shopping.

"No, I am the one who went the last two times.  Now, it is your turn.  I can take care of everything at home." She would say.

I still would not give up.

OK, I'll go to another store.  Will that work? I would ask even though I know what I'll be getting.

No.  He has fresh fast moving stock.  You can be rest assured that the vegetables are fresh, and in any case, you need to buy the Indian vegetables only here.  Since we would anyway end up going here, we might as well buy the other things as well.

This is what I can't understand.  I don't know how it affects you if you buy vegetables from elsewhere that has maybe 75% freshness as compared to here.

Anyway, this is a weekly routine.  We would huff and puff, but anyway somehow, get the job done.

The first time I went to this store on a busy evening, I thought there was a traffic jam near the store, only to realize that it is a normal shopping experience.  On a weekday evening, a day before a festival, I have spent half an hour trying to find a parking spot in a complex that can easily accomodate 100 cars only to park my car in an adjacent street a couple of blocks away from the complex.  That was the last time ever I went on the previous evening of a festival.

In the US, everyone has a unique visa experience.  Everyone has a story to tell.  That's exactly the way it is when it comes to shopping at India cash and carry.  There is every chance that an Indian living in South Bay may not know some of the tech companies, but there is no way that he will not know India cash and carry.


  1. Loved this funny post. I don't think it is that bad here in Seattle, but I do detest even going to the street that leads to the street that has the indian grocery store.

    -Praveen S

    1. Here, it is totally insane. You should check out this place when you come to visit your relatives. Maybe you have already seen the place.