Leading fruitless lives on the Fruit Street
It is aptly called Kakinada’s “Fruit Street”. All types of seasonal fruits, dry fruits, locally popular sweets and savouries like jantikalu, chegodeelu as well as foreign snacks and crisps like potato chips, popcorn, Arabian dates and walnuts are sold damn cheap in the open by the roadside. All these vendors come from far-flung villages to sell their products.
Kakinada: It is aptly called Kakinada’s “Fruit Street”. All types of seasonal fruits, dry fruits, locally popular sweets and savouries like jantikalu, chegodeelu as well as foreign snacks and crisps like potato chips, popcorn, Arabian dates and walnuts are sold damn cheap in the open by the roadside. All these vendors come from far-flung villages to sell their products. Unorganized, leading a hand-to-mouth existence, and alien to the fruits of freedom, these petty vendors’ fortunes are as fragile as the perishability of the products they sell.
Considering that Kakinada has a fast-growing population, these petty vendors come in the hope that their products would have a ready market, apart from commanding better prices than elsewhere or in their villages and hamlets. This city attracts all types of petty vendors, who know for sure that, at end of the day, they can earn something to get by. These vendors sell different types of fruits, from bananas to pomegranate, from mangoes to guavas, and from apples to custard Apple. Name it and you have it here, somewhere or the other in the Fruit Street.
This bustling fruit market is on the side of the busy road from the District Police Office to the Nagamalli Thota Center, which leads to Pithapuram town. All the vendors come early in the morning on their bicycles with loads of fruits. Some vendors engage autos to transport their fruits. Each vendor chooses a tree and displays his fruits under its shade. They stow their fruits in baskets made of bamboo.
The fruit vendors conduct their business right from the early hours to late in the night. By force of habit, they use their lung power to hail and draw the attention of customers looking to buy fruits. There are wheels within wheels for them in this tiny business. “Some fruits are very sensitive to elements and others rot quickly. We need to sell them in time. If they rot, nobody will purchase them; we must throw them away or give it as feed for stray cattle,” says a fruit vendor, drawing upon painful memories.
“We do not have a refrigeration facility to store our fruits for sale the next day. We need to sell them before they rot, rain or shine. We treat them like infants,” says Rambabu, another petty trader. “If our fruits rot, the entire money we invest in purchasing them is lost. If the fruits rot, it means we are ruined,” says yet another trader from Velugubanda village who sells custard apples.
The village is located very far from Kakinada. “In this business, losses are common. We do not know any other work to earn our daily income. The fruits we sell are sweet, but our lives are bitter,” says another trader Appa Rao. Stray cattle are a menace for us as they prey upon our fruits whenever we break for lunch,” says another trader.
Giving valuable insight into customer behaviour, Sattibabu, a trader says: “All people bargain with us even though they come in swanky cars. They don’t mind buying the same fruits at fixed prices in big marts and shopping malls. They won't bargain there.” All these traders come here to sell their fruits, be it scorching summer or biting winter.
They need to come here and sell fruits to maintain their families. They eat here on the roadside, drink here, and sometimes they sleep on the roadside. They have no roof over their heads, no shelter to escape from rain or summer heat. A tree is enough for these petty traders. All told, they sell fruits that customers usually find sweet, but they themselves invariably lead fruitless lives.
By Peri Srikanth