Come summer and it is time for mango pickles. As households get busy making their own pickles, the mango-cutter’s work increases too. Meet Surya Rao, an ageing man from this dying profession.
WHERE TO FIND HIM: Akkayyapalem Rythu Bazaar
OWNS: A house
The temperatures are soaring outside, but Surya Rao is undeterred. Seated on a plastic sheet outside the Akkayyapalem rythu bazaar with his cutting board and knife, he is a busy man. It’s mango season and a constant stream of customers who buy raw mangoes at this rythu bazaar come to him for getting them cut. Bearing the brunt of the summer heat and tolerating the nicks of a sharp knife, Surya Rao is a man who is short in stature, clear in his dealings and is at work from 6 AM to 12 PM.
Not very talkative by nature, he is adept with his fingers and fixed about the price he quotes. ‘Cutting a mango barely takes me a few seconds.’ Focused on his work he says, ‘I come as early as 6 AM and work until 12 noon.’ Charging INR 2 per mango, customers also often call him home for this work. ‘When I’m called to someone’s house, I charge INR 3 for cutting each mango’ he adds. Though the work appears simple outwardly, it is tough and for this man every rupee earned matters. Adding to this is the factor that the business is seasonal, varying from day to day and while there are times when he makes a decent income, there are also occasions when there is no business at all. But this mango-cutter moves on, satisfied with his work.
The hot summers bring him an additional INR 1500 for cutting mangoes, he says, adding that this extra money is quite welcome. In fact, it is better than what he otherwise makes from weaving. ‘I weave baskets out of bamboo sticks and chairs with wire’, he shares. But these are dying crafts in today’s world where plastic is predominant, so it is barely enough to sustain his family of four. Talking about them, he shares that he has a wife and two sons. While his elder son works at a welding shop, other members of the family work in the line of weaving baskets. The combined income adds to the kitty giving the family three square meals per day. Living for the day, Surya Rao is thankful for the roof over his head – the house he lives in was a gift from his forefathers. It’s humbling to watch him work, striving for every rupee. Though he is not rich monetarily, he is content with what he has: his work, his family, his honesty and his house.