“U ppum, uppilutathum, pinne njanum” (Salt, the pickled and me). The light-hearted message on Saidu’s pushcart aptly summarises the man and his work. Saidu K.P. and his pushcart have been a regular fixture near Jaffer Khan Colony and at the mosque a stone’s throw away for over 30 years now.
The pickled mango, gooseberry, carrot, pineapple and guava he sells along with fresh slices of papaya, cucumber and watermelon are popular quick bites for office-goers and children.
At about 11 in the morning, Saidu is just setting shop. The glass jars are filled with pickled fruits and veggies the 64 –year-old has chosen from the Palayam market in the morning.
“I begin my day at around 6.15 a.m. when I go to the market. I go home with the buy and come to this spot around 11 a.m. and I am here till about 10 in the night. By the time I clean the place, pack up and reach home, it is almost 12 a.m.,” Saidu recounts his routine.
Soon Saidu’s cart is flocked by boys. With practised ease they make their order for pickled mango, guava and honeyed gooseberry. As they move to the second helping, Saidu says, “The price ranges from Rs. 3 to Rs. 5 a piece here.”
A boy requests him to play the music. “I will, I will. I am just setting up,” Saidu replies. From a drawer in the cart Saidu pulls out a small plastic jar filled with pen-drives. He takes out one and plugs it to the stereo fixed on the cart roof. Malayalam songs from the 1950s fill the place. “I have to attract customers,” Saidu says with a grin. “If I stand here quietly no one will notice me. But when there is music, people tend to look.” He has music for all moments. Soon after the evening prayers at the mosque, Saidu switches on to popular mappila paattu .
“It is not the school children, but office-goers who are my primary customers. After work, all they need are freshly cut cucumber and papaya to freshen them up,” says Saidu. During the Ramzan season he keeps ready a kit of fresh fruits.
Saidu, who lives in Kottooly in a house taken on lease, says this has been the job he has stuck to the longest. “I began as an ice cream boy and moved to selling vadas. But this has defined me,” he says. After all the expenses Saidu manages to take home about Rs. 600 a day where apart from his wife and four children lives his wife’s sister and her three children.
Saidu, who has a small physical disability, says he has no complaints. “My children have grown up. People around have been kind too.”
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)
Occupation: Street vendor
After work, all office-goers need are freshly cut cucumber and papaya to freshen them up