Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bhavik Groceries

130 East Main Street, Elmsford 10523,

Bhavik is probably the oldest Indian grocery store in mid-upper Westchester. If you want an immediate primer on South Asian produce and snacks, take about 15 minutes to cruise the rows of well stocked stalls here. Bhavik is a classic example of the kind of small suburban Indian grocery store that has sustained the kitchens of so many south asian immigrants over the years.

There is Bangladeshi puffed rice (moori) with “Fit for human consumption” printed across the package--alarming in its reassurance. Rock solid frozen fish-- Rohu, Hilsa – caught, flash frozen with liquid nitrogen, and then airlifted to the US. Cooked in curries, they taste incredibly fresh, though the extreme chilling does affect the texture of the flesh. The owner of Bhavik who hails from Gujarat, sells this fish with mild bemusement at the Bengalis who are the only ones who know how to do this dish justice. In the drinks aisle, there is Rooh Afzah, from Hamdard Labs—a rose drink legendary in status. Dribbled over crushed ice on a hot, humid Indian afternoon in July, I can see, in my mind’s eye, of years gone by, of Ralli Singh’s rose syrup in Esplanade, of the carmine liquid seeping through the fissures in the cracked ice, accelerated by capillary forces. Or Panha, a western Indian drink made by boiling green mangoes and then filtering the liquid through a strainer. There are stacks of Indian desserts: rossogollas, gulab jamun, or sohan ke halwa, laden with sugar and fat: three good reasons why diabetes is rampant in India.

As Indian foods take away from your health, so do they give, through years of traditional culinary filtering of what works for you. Turmeric—sold whole or ground, is believed to have anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory properties due to the chemical curcumin. Mustard oil is a traditional oil used in Indian foods which is now controversial—touted for its beneficial properties, yet banned in many countries due to a high erucic acid content. You can find these at Bhavik. And with them are the modern delicacies—candy sized tamarind balls wrapped in plastic made famous over the last 10 years by Jet Airways, Cadbury’s chocolate ├ęclairs shipped from India, by way of a British brand. Neem soap and Neem oil—made with traditional extracts from the Neem tree, and a major ingredient in many modern organic pesticides. Neem’s celebrated anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties were the subject of an infamous patent attempt in the 1990’s at the European Office of Patents, that was successfully challenged by the Indian government on the grounds that neem extracts have been used since time immemorial. And finally, the embarrassing product of modern India “Fair and lovely” skin bleaching cream that promises fairer skin to millions. You can get them all at Bhavik, and more.

Head to the counter and arrayed across are Bollywood DVDs. There has been an upsurge of interest in Indian movies in the US since the mid-nineties catalyzed by two reasons. The first was the emergence of the DVD player, that vastly improved the viewing experience. The second was the network of Indian grocery stores, where these movies could be rented for a nominal fee. The movies themselves were largely revamped by this time with robotically uniform actors and actresses with great physical appeal, the benefits of the economies of scale of limited thought and set piece routines, and the brilliant use of color and music that metamorphosed Bollywood films into a slicker, slipperier, sexier celluloid. So, on a Friday evening, you popped in one of these mega extravaganzas, put your mind on hold and listened to simple stories, and electronic songs, and beautiful men and women marching to some rhythm in an infantile progression of logic. And what thespians these are! There is six pack Salman, credited with bringing bodybuilding to Bollywood, Katrina Kaif, who has raised the bar on her craft by not being able to act in a language that she cannot speak, Abhishekh Bacchhan whose orders of magnitude improvement over the years has only proven again that a small number divided by zero can be a large number. And all of this grandeur, gifted almost for a couple of dollars across the counter by the munificent Mr. Bhavik, grocer and movie critic on demand, dispensing advise on his picks for the evening. (Actually Mr. Kirit, as has been commented below)


  1. The Downingtown Wegmans carries a lot of these items, like Neem toothpaste and papadums, in their international aisles!

  2. Just priceless! Loved your summary of Mr. Bhavik actually Mr. Kirit, since the store is named after his son.

  3. Superb. Indian stores in USA are an institution in themselves. Normally owned and run by some enterprising Patel from Gujarat, it is amazing they can cater to the varied needs of immigrants from every nook of India.

  4. I have stayed in westchester for 8 years now. Only thing I buy from bhavik is green chillies which is difficult to buy in other American stores (these days found green chillies in apple farm and hmart also ) . This place is overpriced and please do make sure to check for the expiry dates. If you have a car , go to edision , jersey city or queens , you will be surprised to see the price difference on each item this guy takes. By no standard you can call him polite and this low quality cds that he rents out are all pirated, for heaven shake you can stream those videos from web :-) . Wish this piracy can be communicated to the concerned authorities. I know my comments are harsh but this has been my experience. I almost had a food poisoning after eating his samosa chat. Store is only for people who have just arrived here and dont know the surrounding well enough. Only in emergency use this place else pay the toll and go to jersey or queens , would be worth it.