A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

Picture Credit: PIXABAY
The other day I was at the vegetable vendor’s picking out well.. obviously – vegetables. As I moved to the tomatoes I was joined by a boy of about 14. He dug into the basket turning the tomatoes this way and that, picking out some then dropping them back, then picking out some more. Finally he asked me, ‘How do you know which is a good one?’
Deja vu struck.
While we were growing up we lived in a joint family. While my sister and I did our chores (my mum saw to it) most of the mundane outdoor tasks were handled by others in the family. It might have had to do with the fact that we lived in a crowded area and mum wasn’t certain we could negotiate the roads safely on our own.

One day, perhaps the house help wasn’t around or maybe because my mum decided it was high time I learnt to do this, she handed me a bag, some change and asked me to go buy vegetables.

I mean, seriously? Vegetables? The teen me was completely appalled. I could imagine going out and buying stationery or books or sweets or clothes. But vegetables? What a mundane, unfashionable, low brow task to be saddled with! My entire teen self quailed at the idea rejecting it outright.
I refused.
“If you can eat vegetables, you can go buy them too,” said my mum and I saw her face settle into that familiar determined look my sister and I disliked and dreaded. If you know even a little bit of my mum you will know she can really dig her heels in, specially  when it comes to, what she thinks of as, teaching us a lesson.
I didn’t stand a hair’s breadth chance. So there I was with the most embarrassing jhola (cloth bag) in one hand and the money in the other off to buy vegetables at Chantu ki dukan – that’s what the vegetable vendor was called! I bent my head, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew, as I threaded my way through the crowded street.
I cannot recall what I bought. I just remember picking up a handful of something, mumbling out, ‘Half kg of this’, handing the money and walking home in a blaze of self-consciousness.

And here was this boy, how easily he asked for my help and how gladly I gave it! Standing side by side in a rather companionable silence we picked out tomatoes. I wish I had been more like him when I was his age.

So dear H and N, here’s the lesson for the day:
People are more likely to offer help than laugh at us if only we cast aside our nervousness and ask for it. We might be laughed at for pretending to know something but the moment we voluntarily expose our vulnerability and  enlist someone’s assistance we create a bond putting them firmly on ‘our side’, so to say.
No matter where you are – at a new school, at the library or in the sports ground, don’t be too shy or scared to enlist people’s support, even if they are strangers. Ask for help and you shall get it in greater measure than you ever expected.
Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you’ve been to embarrassed to ask for help? Do share. I’d love to add your experience to mine when I talk to the kids.

22 Replies to “A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons”

  1. I was sent to buy vegetables since I was a kid. I just had to give the list to the vegetable vendor in the shopping centre of our colony. Lacchhu (or Mota sometimes) would give the veges and write the amount due on the back of the list and I would carry all that back. When I was may be 7-8, I was allowed to carry money. But how to pick the right vegetable (kaccha or pakka, hard or soft), I learnt it from KG after marriage. Yes, I am all for asking help. It's much later in life that I have learnt to use this mantra.

  2. This is so important to learn from the get go. Learning to ask for help and knowing it doesn't demean us. I've been facing some resistance from Gy as a result of her diffidence. Hoping that when she reads this it will change.

  3. I guess it would depend on the child too! There are plenty now too who are apprehensive about asking, whereas others don't hesitate! Yes, it's definitely good to let them know that most people are nice and will not laugh at them!

  4. I absolutely love the photo of those tomatoes! The young teen in the article could have easily been me. At least my sister occasionally accompanied dad to the 'subzi mandi' It is true when you say that help is given when asked, well most of the times, yes. I have been in the most awkward situations while traveling. But if one manages to shut down the voice in the head and just asks, the sweet stranger helps and responds with a 'there you go Hon.' Like you have said the more one communicates the less scary it becomes the next time. It becomes easier to experiment and step outside your comfort zone. Isn't that where all the fun is supposed to be after all?

    PS: so how do you pick out those tomatoes? 🙂

  5. I've always struggled to ask for help, and I guess in a way I still do. I am getting better at it though, and encouraging my children to ask too. Fascinating post really got me thinking #mg

  6. That is very true! I was always eager to ask for help, even when I strictly didnt need too … But its good. I enjoyed reading this post dear Tulika – all the best for you and the kiddoes:-) Miss u:-)

  7. Headstrong idiot that I am, I often end up learning from experiences and not taking help from people when I'm in a new place or doing some thing new.
    I know a little bit of how to select ladyfingers (because it's my fave vegetable) and cucumbers. I guess I'll have to survive on these two veggies when the day comes 😀

    1. Mithila – refer the lesson for H and N and you won't have to survive on ladyfinger, not that I have anything against it or the cucumbers for that matter, but it could get boring.

  8. Haha! Ohh I'm still not over this problem, though I'm getting better at it. When I was to meet my friends in a nearby mall, I walked in the wrong lane for a long time, hoping the way was right. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone the way to the city's most visited mall. I was going alone for the first time you see. In the end when it was clear that I was nowhere close to it, I took a rickshaw to the place. 😛

  9. I was never sent out to buy veggies but went for other chores mostly with my brother. The two of us used to quarrel for the silliest of things. I was painfully shy, always finding it hard to ask for help. Now when l see my kids hesitating l egg them on to go and ask. There younger one who is the shier one is slowly learning how to.

    1. With your brother along things would have not been so bad. I guess some kids are just shy. That's just the way their personality is. But they do come out of their shells as they grow.

  10. Such a wise post. I remember being very shy and afraid to ask questions and realize the futility of it. Kids today are definitely more confident in their own skin.

  11. I never had a chance like this Tulika. In fact, even the neighbors thought I was the "sensible one". Sigh. The only thing I was totally embarrassed about was when someone told me I looked nice or had a nice smile. I wouldn't know what to do and mumble thanks and never believe it. 🙂 Reading about your jhola reminded me of our own boring yellow cloth bag with the tamil print on it. Heheh. Nobody liked to be seen with it but even though it looked flimsy, it was the most durable.

    In my days I had no option to bunk any chores. I used to be very enthu about doing stuff around the house. Inherent energy overload.

    I practically walked with you down memory lane, and then to the market with you!

    1. Aw Vidya, that's cute. Most of us are embarrassed when it comes to compliments. That's another thing this generation is cool about. I wish you were actually there walking to the market with me – I could have done with some company. Things don't seem half as bad if you have a friend with you.

  12. I was the same while growing up and now I want to buy jholas all the time. I have not been a good picker of vegetable so when I am out buying, I just place them in the cart with a tap. Yes, I but veggies online but it helps me not get stuff that can't be used.

    Coming to your lesson and reflection – somehow, I have never been shy of asking for help. I find it hard to say I can't do it but I can always say, help me do it better. That's one thing, I would have told H and N, if I was there. There is a bit of psychology at work but it helps. 🙂

    1. Hah yes the jholas are cool now. Back then they were plain embarrassing. This is a great idea – 'Help me do it better' sounds good – asking for help without actually saying 'I don't know'. Thanks Parul.

  13. Such an important lesson to learn. I can't recall any now but I'm sure there must have been many. But this is one lesson I hope I'm able to teach M early in life

  14. That's a very important lesson. I was too shy while growing up to even ask a question. I can totally relate to you. But kids now are much smarter and don't hesitate in asking questions.

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