Goods-carrier mini trucks selling vegetables and fruits are now a common sight in neighbourhoods. The design of these machines makes it convenient for baskets to be placed and have its contents handed out to buyers. And a maxi-cab share-auto ferrying people comes with in-built deterrent, rows of seats, to any thought of converting the vehicle into a mobile vegetable shop. However, if someone has taken a share-auto on rent from a benevolent owner and knows how to make one’s request, it is possible to get around this impediment.

That is an inference drawn from A. Jayaraj’s experience. A maxi-cab share-auto driver from K.K. Nagar, Jayaraj sought the vehicle owner’s permission to have it turned into a mobile vegetable van by removing the cushion seats. The owner did not give his nod immediately, but was clearly giving the request a thought. When Jayaraj explained that the move would help him put food on the table for his four-member family every day, the consent came.

Using savings made over a few months, Jayaraj altered the maxicab into a mobile vegetable unit by removing the cushion seats. It allows him to place at least half-a-dozen baskets with various vegetables including brinjal, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, drumsticks and onions on the steel floor of the vehicle. He has also fitted the vehicle with an audio system to announce the vegetables that are on sale, and their prices.

“Driving a share-auto is easier than selling vegetables as the latter calls for negotiation skills. Initially, I would return home, with almost the entire stock with me. After seeing this, my wife Mary volunteered to come with me,” says the 48-year-old-Jayaraj. The couple have two children.

Between 7 a.m and 5 p.m on all days except Sundays, Jayaraj drives his vehicle on the same route that he used to take as an maxi-cab share auto driver not long ago. He knows this route like the back of his palm, as he has been operating on it for more than two decades. It covers K.K. Nagar, Virugambakkam, Vadapalani, Ashok Pillar, MGR Nagar, Ramapuram, Saligramam, Jafferkhanpet and West Saidapet.

Stocks are bought from local wholesale traders. On an average, the couple earn between ₹300 and ₹ 500 per day. On Mondays and Fridays, they earn around ₹1,500.

“We sell only vegetables and not fruits on a daily basis due to the lack of storage facilities. Residents are very kind to us as they see that we are selling vegetables from an altered vehicle, and only a few of them bargain with us,” says Mary.

A native of Tuticorin, Jayaraj moved to Chennai more than two decades ago following marriage. Since then, he has been driving auto rickshaws for his livelihood, and he has been able to meet his children’s education expenses, with his son having completed his degree, and his daughter in the final year of her under-graduate studies.

He managed to run the family for many weeks since the lockdown with some savings and the free rations provided by the State government. However, when the savings started to dry up, Jayaraj decided to turn his rented vehicle into a mobile vegetable unit.

Jayaraj can be contacted at 9941294114.

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