By V. Shourabh
Speeding SUVs, bikes and cars slow down and stop as they approach a stretch on the ever-busy highway between Yelwal and Ankanahalli on the Mysuru-Hunsur Road. reason: To buy luscious mangoes. The two-kilometre stretch has literally transformed into a Mango Mandi and from February till about August, Mango Pyramids greet motorists on both sides of the highway from the crack of dawn till the fall of dusk. This Weekend Star Supplement takes you on a trip discovering the mango varieties and the human faces behind this Highway Mandi.
King of Fruits rules Hunsur Highway
Summer is incomplete without mangoes and it is that time of the year where other fruits are sidelined and mango is placed at the top of fruit varieties. No wonder mango is called ‘The King of Fruits’. Even in Vedas, mango is described as the food of Gods. And there is nothing like a bowl of fresh-cut, juicy and sweet mango slices on a sunny summer day. It is soul-soothing.
Mango markets within the city by-lanes are flooded with varieties of mangoes and those who want to go on a long drive to buy the fruits can choose the Mysuru-Madikeri-Bantwal Highway instead of buying them in narrow lanes and by-lanes.
The moment one crosses Hinkal and proceeds towards Yelwal and beyond, it is a pleasant sight as mango sellers all along the stretch have their mangoes neatly decorated in patterns on their carts by both the sides of the road, attracting travellers. This pleasing sight of several carts over a two-kilometre stretch from Yelwal to Ankanahalli is something that catches attention. It tempts them to stop by and buy fresh mangoes.
No wonder, anything that is aesthetically pleasing to eyes (especially food) triggers a hormone in the brain and the human mind conspires to have a bite at it. Star of Mysore interacted with some of the mango sellers on that Highway and got an insight about their business, life and problems. Attracting customers and finalising a deal with them is an art for these sellers.
Basavaraj Naik, a resident of Nagavala village, and his cousins have several mango carts setup on that highway. They have various varieties of mangoes stacked up on their carts in the shape of pyramids. The colourful green, orange, yellow and red mangoes are neatly placed on carts on both the sides of the Highway and speeding motorists stop by to savour the fleshy and juicy mangoes.
Basavaraj Naik says, “When summer comes, our business grows because it is the season of mangoes. People love to eat mangoes and we make sure we give them the best fruits. We sell varieties of mangoes like Badami, Malagova, Neelam, Rasapuri, Thotapuri, Baganapalli, Sindoora, Alphonso, etc. I’m into this business since about 4 years and selling mangoes brings us a good profit. I, along with my cousins, have set up mango carts starting from March and we end our mango sales by around August every year,” he says.
“We get our fruits from Nagavala, Benkipura and nearby villages. People who know the real value of taste and quality come and buy mangoes in huge quantity from us. We sell natural mangoes without using any chemicals to ripen them. This has spread through the word of mouth and people from various walks of life come over to buy these fruits,” he adds.
Life for these sellers has been a challenging one as they have to buy mangoes from landlords for a price and then later they have to sell them at a reasonable price and make profits. Basavaraj says, “We manage to make minimal profits on some days and when our stars are good, we make good profits on particular days. We cannot predict our sales. It varies each different day. During off season, to earn my livelihood I work as an agent to make PAN cards and Driving Licenses. We have a lot of competition too as there are nearly 50 such fruit carts in this highway and our presentation of the mangoes and how we interact with the customers plays a major role. We have boys who salute and wave at every passing car and try to grab their attention. But every cart owner here has his way of grabbing attention. Life isn’t easy. But somehow we make a living.”
The average price of mangoes here ranges from Rs. 80 to Rs. 160 per kg depending on the variety. They also sell the sweetest variety of Mango which is more famous in Northern India called the ‘Apoos’ that is sold at about Rs. 200 per kg.
Another seller, Sachin, says, “During mango season I sell mangoes. Otherwise, I sell oranges, sapota and pomegranates. It is very difficult to make a sale over here. Customers first enquire about the rates with the nearby carts and then they come back, taste a slice of the mango and only after they are convinced, they bargain. They do not negotiate until we bring down prices. If not, they threaten us that they will go to the next cart. In order to not lose out on a customer, we make a reasonable compromise.”