TIRUCHY: At the heart of Tiruchy city, in front of the Ayyapan Temple near the Collectorate, a group of five men, in the morning hours of Thursday, sold honey freshly-extracted from large, newly-plucked honeycombs.
Passers-by watched the live extraction in excitement, eagerly waiting to buy it. They charged around Rs 700 for one litre of honey. Asked about the honey business, they pointed at a huge tree inside the temple premises.
"The temple authorities called us to remove honeycombs from the tree. After removing it, we started the sale of the extracted honey here itself," said the workers engaged in honey harvesting. They manually squeeze honey out of the comb and put them in containers of varied sizes.
They said they were from Chattisgarh. "We hail from Hedvi village near to the Chattisgarh-Orissa border. However, we are now settled in Bangalore," Ratan Mandal (25), one of the workers, said. They have been frequenting Tamil Nadu for three year now for work, they said.
"We regularly come to Chennai, Tiruchy, Madurai and other cities. We stay two-three weeks in one city. Now we are in Tiruchy. We will go to Chennai in a week. People call us when they want to harvest honeycombs. Earlier, we used to struggle for connections, but people know us now and we are being called regularly," one of the workers said.
They extract honey in urban places, particularly from the premises of buildings, hospitals, colleges and hostels.
Another honeycomb harvester, 13-year-old Shahid Kapoor said, "I have been travelling to different parts of the country since childhood. I learnt this skill from my Deepak (30), my brother, who is the senior-most amongst us. He runs the business. We go to places where our help is needed. After removing the honeycomb, we give 1 to 2 litres of it to them and sell the rest. We don't charge them for our service, it's completely free."
When asked whether the job is profitable, he said, "It's a profitable business, but the quality of honey will vary at different places and that would sometimes affect our sales. We are all from the same family. Our family is of 20 members now. Five of them are here in this town and others are in other towns. Apart from honey comb extraction, we also know to make terracotta sculptures. Both are our family business."