The man had no idea what “yellow” was. But there’s never any way to tell when a “saafron” is fake.
After a few minutes of this exchange, a young lady dressed in a black blouse and a grey scarf made her way to the back of the shop with a paper tray. She handed out the saffron to a confused-looking boy as she pushed it through a large slot in the door.
“You have to be sure you’re not giving this saffron to somebody who isn’t an Indian,” said the youth in Hindi to the girl as she filled out a form, “or else it’s stolen.”
In the back, a young man named Suneeta, her cheeks puffed up with pride, pointed at his saffron to which the youth replied, “Saafran? It’s yellow.”
Suneeta smiled brightly, and said, “Now, then. What do you call it? Saafro? Saffron?”
The youth in Sangeeta’s family was an avid student, attending colleges and high schools and even becoming a university vice chancellor, and he was the person who had first introduced saffron to Hyderabad after he came to know of Saafri from a friend in Ahmedabad.
Suneeta’s father, who was a civil servant, was the first person in the family to have the bright idea of producing saffron. He did so in his free time at a very modest budget, earning his saffron by burning small pieces of saffronwood.
He had his saffron plant first opened in 1969 in Sivassar, a tiny town in Madhya Pradesh, in central India, where Suneeta’s mother and grandfather lived. There, he would sit outside his house, and burn saffronwood and other small bits of saffron, making it available to anyone in the neighbourhood who was looking for it. (Saafrim is an important part of India’s mythology, and, besides its symbolic significance, its name also means “festival day.”)
Although the saffron industry is relatively small in India – there are fewer than five thousand commercial businesses making saffron – it is not difficult to find. In Ahmedabad, and then elsewhere throughout the country, shopkeepers will usually have at least a few pieces worth Rs 100 per kilogram, so saffron will easily
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