Miss­ing my fave food store

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Alok Joshi

One of the pri­mary rea­sons for home­sick­ness among for­eign­ers in China is a long­ing for food back home. The first thing they try to find are restau­rants that serve their coun­try’s cui­sine. I did the same dur­ing my ini­tial years in Bei­jing. At that time, there were about a dozen ex­pen­sive In­dian restau­rants in the cap­i­tal, but none could sat­isfy my palate for au­then­tic taste.

Luck­ily, I learned about a store in San­l­i­tun that stocked most of the ba­sic South Asian and Ara­bic ingredients and prod­ucts. As soon as I stepped in, the smell of In­dian spices ex­cited my nostrils. I bought so many things one would have thought the shop was go­ing out of busi­ness the next day.

The store sur­vived for many years. An old Chi­nese cou­ple, seem­ingly as old as the store it­self, ran the shop for sev­eral years. I be­came a reg­u­lar cus­tomer.

All seemed well, then sud­denly the old cou­ple was re­placed by a young cou­ple. The shop had changed hands. One of the new own­ers could speak a bit of English to the re­lief of many cus­tomers. So, per­haps the change was not so bad.

How­ever, af­ter a few months, I saw a no­tice up in the shop say­ing they were mov­ing to an­other lo­ca­tion which was not yet de­cided.

The gov­ern­ment was pulling down all the unau­tho­rized com­mer­cial shops in the area. The store re­mained open for a cou­ple of months un­til one day I saw them mov­ing out. Soon enough, the au­thor­i­ties de­stroyed the struc­ture, break­ing ev­ery brick into rub­ble. It is just a des­o­late cor­ner now.

I have al­ways won­dered why there weren’t more stores like that in Bei­jing de­spite the heavy de­mand.

Re­cently, I called them up to find their new lo­ca­tion. The young lady had to come out on the street to meet me be­cause I could not find the new store. She told me they moved to a new store in a com­mu­nity, but it was also torn down. Now, they run a scaled-down ver­sion out of their small apart­ment.

The busi­ness has shrunk con­sid­er­ably. Only those in dire need take the trou­ble to find it. She said they are still look­ing for a proper place, but the rent is ex­or­bi­tant.

San­l­i­tun has be­come Tai Koo Li. Bars have mush­roomed. High-end in­ter­na­tional brands have re­placed small stores. But I still miss my fa­vorite food store.

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