For A Living

As resilient as the Goddess mother whose name she shares, Devi fights against all odds and resolutely carries on. She sells seasonal fruits for a living, and this season her cart carries the lesser known tegalu. Yo! Vizag delves into her story.

“My job is to simply sit and sell; it is the owner of the cart who decides on what to stock. Sales vary on a day to day basis, and I get paid a daily wage. But selling is not that easy, there are customers who haggle a lot. I’ve been selling these tender palm shoots (tegalu) since Naguluchavithi, when the season started. These will be available for another month. I sell a stack for Rs. 25/-, I’m also selling big guavas which are priced at Rs.70 each, but are quite tasty.

I’m here from 8AM in the morning to 10:30PM at night. I eat lunch at one of the hotels here, because there’s no one waiting at home for me. I got my daughter married recently, but even before that it was only the two of us. I am uneducated and was married when I was very young. My husband left me for another woman, my mother abandoned me, my in-laws are no more; presently, I am alone. When I see happy families, I often wonder why my life couldn’t be like theirs. To sustain myself and my daughter I have done a variety of odd jobs ranging from working as a house-maid to working in offices. I have been working with the owner of this cart for the past few years now. Though people tell me to remarry, I don’t want to go through that hell again. All I want is to keep my daughter happy and well provided for. Besides that, I have no reason to live.”

Tender palm shoots or Tegalu are definitely an acquired taste. They taste a bit like artichokes, are rather nutritious, work well as a mouth freshener and are completely organic. They are traditionally roasted in an open fire in the winter months of December to February. The palm shoots come from Rajahmundry, Anakapalle or nearby regions. When the palm fruit (remember the ice apples you loved all summer!) ripens and drops from the tree, it is left to germinate. The germinated shoots are the delicious tegalu which can be had roasted and smoked, or salted and boiled.