India’s Kirana Shops

NOT Gori Rajkumari's Kirana Shop, but similar!

So what IS a Kirana Store you ask yourself?

Well, for my readers who live in India, you already know and love them.

But for those who don’t live in India, let me explain.

A Kirana Store is a God send, especially for those of us living far from the hustle and bustle of the “inner city”. Of course people living within a busy city use them and love them as much as us outer city kids, but I doubt they can understand the absolute joy of ordering Bhel Puri at 10pm to have it delivered to your door. For them, they would just step out and get it quickly.

A Kirana Store is usually owned by family members and run either quite close to their own home or from the downstairs shop of the complex in which they live. They carry many items both fresh and packaged. Some carry perishable items such as milk, eggs and cheese. Others carry only packaged goods.

Our local Kirana shop carries everything except eggs, as he is a pure veg shop. He carries fresh vegetables, fruit, coconuts, spices, rice, dhal, and beans. He has a variety of Maggi, Dhokla and Idli mixes. He also carries sundries like shampoo and henna and women’s necessities.

And he delivers all of this to your door in an hour or less (if an emergency, he can bring it even quicker).

If he doesn’t have it, he will run to the local Reliance and buy it for you and deliver it to your door.

If you need medicine but are too ill to go for it yourself and if he doesn’t carry it, you need only give him your prescription and he will send out for it and have it delivered to your door.

And he remembers you. When you go past, he smiles and waves and asks after your health. He remembers what your favorite subzi is and makes sure to have it fresh. He instinctually knows when you are going to run out of milk and will have it ready to be brought to you almost before you call for it. He knows that even though Bear does not like Tomato’s, that I love them. So he sets aside some of his ripest for me twice a week and delivers them to me fresh and ripe and ready to eat.

You can always know when our local Kirana guy is in our complex, by the putt putt putt of his scooter motor. You can lean over your balcony and call to him that you need butter or bread or coffee. And an hour later, there it is.

He also keeps a tab for you, so you don’t always have to pay as you receive. Once a month, my husband goes to the shop and asks for his ‘tab’ and then pays what we owe. Sometimes we give him an advance if he needs extra to pay for stocking his shelves.

This is one of the many things that I will miss when we move back to the states. Little family stores like that still exist in the states, but they are slowly being killed off due to the larger conglomerates. That hasn’t happened yet in India and I pray that it never does.

Our local Kirana guy is the epitome of small town appeal even in the midst of a larger city life.

So show support to your local businesses, whether you’re in the US or India!

© 2012 Gori Rajkumari

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4 thoughts on “India’s Kirana Shops

  1. Wow. Our stores don’t do the credit tab like you mentioned. At least not that I’m aware of. We always have to take money with us. But, the little shops in the bazaar sometimes give us discounts because we’re there all the time and such. It is nice to have these familiar places where you feel connected to the owners though.

    • You should ask! That’s how my husband found out about the tab, he was short money one day and asked! 😉 I love how all our local stores are so easy going about these things. A favorite restaurant here let us pay the next time we came because their card reader was down (power went off in the area due to an accident) and we didn’t have cash, nor would the ATM’s work. So the next time we went, we gave a huge tip! The waiter who usually serves us even remembers that we always order Shanghai Paneer and he brings it out hot! 🙂

  2. Oh yeah, the one in my old neighbourhood in Bangalore was exellent too, the one in Navi Mumbai used to deliver within 20 minutes and we could place order on the phone, when we shifted back to bangalore we were in an area with no Kirana shop, but Star bazaar was next door and open until midnight so that wasn’t too much of a big issue.
    the one where we live is totally useless though, at least the one that just does general store, but the pharmacist next to that useless one does sell groceries too, and funny enough even have a better stock than the Kirana shop, including a wide stock of frozen stuff in veg and non-veg, the only thing my pharmacist doesn’t sell are vegetables and grains, but he has all other packaged goods, he knows me well enough now too, he even makes jokes on occasion and ask about my health too.

    • Oh man, sorry you no longer have a good Kirana shop. I’ve heard that they aren’t always as great as ours, but the ones we’ve always used here in Pune or in Mumbai where Baba and Aai lived were great. At least you have a good chemist!!! 🙂 Ours is so far away!

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