Surviving the virus; shuttered hostels transform into veggie outlets
A little distance away from the planetarium on Jaffer Khan Colony Road, a nondescript board bears the legend “Waya‘naadans’”. And thereby hangs a green tale. In the porch of the house, a bustling Preethi Santosh can be found picking out choice vegetables and fruits for customers. In her pre-Corona virus avatar, she used to run a hostel here.
The Pulpally-native from Wayanad had migrated to the city after her husband, businessman Santosh, suffered a life-shattering accident. Five years back the 4-member family with son Abhijith and daughter Athira rented a house near Calicut Medical College.
Over time in search of a livelihood she turned from hostel warden to running one. With a partner, she had a good thing going; providing accommodation to nearly 75 wards, predominantly students and a few working women. Such was the quality of their hospitality that the hostel venture withstood the triple whammy of demonetisation, Nipah outbreak and twin floods in succeeding years.
Enter Covid-19. The ensuing lockdown forced them into downing shutters on March 11. This happened as they were just about turning the financial corner after paying off the installments on both the hired premises and settling other expenses. Savings ebbed. After a month the future seemed bleak. That was when she took the momentous decision to source local produce from her native Wayanad.
Preethi picks up the tale. “When income stopped, I got flustered. Now, it’s been a month since have started vending vegetables. Giving in easily is not an option,” says a smiling Preethi, her words freighted with the burden of experience. Her 12-year experience in horticulture came in handy in identifying growers, including friends, of non-toxic produce from places like Gundalpet, Mananthavady, Panamaram, Pulpally and Sulthan Bathery. Most of them, like tapioca farmers, were finding it difficult to sell their produce. Supplies arrive on Mondays and Thursdays. The 75-year old Velayudhan from Kuttikkattur who supplies quality bananas, plantains and spinach comes in for her special praise.
Residents of Cherooty Nagar, Jafar Khan and Tiruthiyad Colonies have patronised her wares sumptuously. To cater to this need the shop is open from seven, for the convenience of morning walkers, to seven in the evening. The encouraging response has spurred her to convert the second hostel space in Kottaram Road too into an outlet. Home delivery is also available.
Preethi confides her dreams. “Being able to make available quality vegetables and fruits provides great satisfaction. I wish to serve traditional food items too, shortly. All those who were with me in the earlier hostel venture too have to be accommodated. We have to beat this contagion,” she concludes on a confident note.