Many vendors sell a lot of eatables near bus stops and educational institutions but hygiene is at a premium at all these places

Indeed, “April is the cruellest month” for the people of Madurai and nearby districts with temperature soaring to 40 degree Celsius.

Residents, especially those who venture out during daytime, fret and fume over the scorching sun and sweltering heat while a few others grab the opportunity to sell seasonal produce and make a living. Stalls selling cool drinks of reputed companies, well known ice creams and juices of various fruits have a roaring business but their prices deter some people. So, they turn to roadside vendors.

Enterprising villagers spring from nowhere and choose a vantage point to quench your thirst or satiate your taste. Some prepare sugarcane or orange juice, ‘kambu' or ‘ragi' gruel for sale; others keep slices of water melon under a mosquito net or glass case, bunches of tender cucumber or cocunut, jack fruit or palm fruit. Some vendors admit that this is a seasonal business.

For example, Rajalakshmi of Chokkikulam, wife of a loadman, sells ‘ragi' and ‘kambu' gruel on Alagarkoil Road.

Her beverage costs just Rs. 10 per glass. She offers a host of side dishes also such as onions, mango/ lemon/tomato pickle and fried chillies. Her regular customers are students. When the two nearby institutions are closed for holidays or vacation, she winds up her business.

In the case of Vinaitheerthan of Pandian Nagar, it is not a part-time work. He says that he has been selling ‘orange' juice for the last 10 years. His drinks cost Rs. 10 only. He too claims to have regular customers. D. Ilango, an advocate, one of his customers, terms it a health drink!

Another vendor, Pandimuthu of Uthangudi, says that he has been selling sugarcane juice for the last 24 years. His work looks a little laborious as he has to purchase lemon, ginger, ice bars and kerosene (to run the motor) but he does not mind it. He makes an investment of Rs. 500 daily and takes home Rs.1,000. It seems to be a good business from his perspective.

There are many such vendors selling a host of eatables near bus stops, educational institutions and other places where people assemble in large numbers. But hygiene is at a premium at all these places. Flies swarm the stalls; dust sweeps across eatables; and the quality of water used for preparation of various drinks (and cleaning the glasses) leaves a lot to be desired. Some vendors take precaution but a majority of them do not care for cleanliness. A visit to various stalls in the city shows that the onus lies on the consumers to be wary and choosy.

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