Anil Kumar K.S.’ blue van is familiar to commuters passing through Vanchiyoor. Parked beside the court complex, it attracts a steady stream of passersby. This is where 45-year-old Anil makes a living by selling cups of cut fruits dunked in fruit juice and syrup. His car serves as a makeshift outlet and vehicle for the enterprising vendor. A banner tied to the bonnet announces to the world that this is the place for cut fruits fortified by juice of Indian sarasaparilla (narunandi).
With a smile he hands you a cup full of fruits and says: “Try this.” As you hesitate to eat it, he adds: “It is all done neatly. I buy the best of fruits from Chala bazaar. The fruits are all cut here and I wear plastic gloves when I handle them. The sugar syrup and the fruit juice are made at home.”
True, it does look neat. The cut fruits are kept in a bucket that is closed with a lid while plastic spoons float in a vessel filled with water. Another bucket holds the waste while the used cups are thrown into a plastic container set aside for that. “I am very careful, for I want my customers to keep coming,” he says with a smile that is never very far away from his face.
Seasonal fruits go into the mixture. Right now, he has added banana, apple, papaya and pineapple. When mangoes are in season, the concoction is mixed in mango juice. A dash of sarasapilla preserve, which he buys from an outlet in Thamalam, is added to the mixture.
Anil began his business about 18 months ago when the company he was working in shifted base to Bangalore. “After completing my pre-degree from M.G. College, I worked in many places. The last job I held involved selling educational CDs made by a company in Technopark. When it shifted from the city, I lost my job.” Instead of becoming disheartened, Anil decided to become his own master and turned his Maruti van into a makeshift stall.
Was he inspired by the Dileep film Parakum Thalika, in which Dileep begins a mobile eatery in his ramshackle bus. “No, no,” he laughs. “There are many eateries that are run from vans in the city. I decided to sell fresh fruits,” he explains.
Once he reaches Vanchiyoor by 8 a.m., the rear door of the van is opened, the paraphernalia for his business is neatly arranged and Anil begins his day.
A native of the city, Anil lives in Poojappura with his wife, Thulasi, and two children. “My son in class nine is a state-level water polo player. My daughter is in class four,” he says.
He maintains that he is happy with his business. Anil has many regulars among the lawyers, policemen and autorickshaw drivers who frequent the courts. Rainy days and holidays do affect his business. On a normal day, he says he makes enough to live comfortably.
As I try the cup of fruits, customers queue up. They quickly gulp the fruits without a second thought, pay Rs. 25 for the cup and leave. The day has just begun for Anil who winds up his stall by noon. Then he drives away and his van becomes a four-wheeler for his family.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)