CHENNAI: Lunch, for Kannan annachi, is wherever his fruit-laden bullock cart takes him. Today, he opens his lunch box on a pavement, sitting near his ox. Even their movements are synchronised — while the elegant beast chews its cud, annachi relishes the rice from his tiffin box.
As crates of fruits like grapes and pomegranate are unloaded onto the bullock cart, Annachi explains his USP. “Our fruits are always fresh. In the big AC outlets, they are kept for weeks together. But we sell cheap and our stock lasts just two days.” The 44-year-old, who came to Chennai from Tiruchendur 24 years ago, says the city has given him plenty of opportunities. “I started out as a daily wage labourer. Today, I sell about 300-400 kg of fruits every two days.”
The resident of Kilpauk Garden gives the nitty-gritty of his small-scale enterprise, which has four people. The fruits are sourced from Koyambedu market in a Tata Ace — today, the drop off point was Mylapore. The group then travels around the city the next two days selling fruits in Jam Bazaar, Meesapet, Teynampet and Adyar. “We work for around 10 hours a day. But we ensure that we don’t travel more than 2 km at a time, because the ox too is like us — it toils under the sun and has to pull heavy loads,” he says, casting what looks like an endearing glance at his ox.
Selling on the go is what lets him run the business. A store doesn’t have to be maintained and people who are on their way somewhere just stop to pick up some healthy eats on their way. “If we buy one kg of fruit for Rs 80, we sell it for Rs 85. And if the wholesaler says there is 10 kg of fruit in a crate, mostly there will only 8-9 kg,” rues Kannan.
Three workers load and unload the crates, manage sales and pass time with their wisecracks (not about their revered annachi though). One of them refuses to be interviewed reasoning, “I would laugh more than I can talk.”
And this is a year-round enterprise — its grape time and soon, it’ll be mangos and watermelon. Whatever be the season, the bullock cart pulls along, literally, through the streets of Chennai.