Hyderabad: Its around eight in the morning and the area near the car parking stand at Barkas is already a beehive of activity. Pushcarts and bicycles line up along roadside with men standing in groups picking up guavas, mulberry and rose apple, and attractively arranging it on the carts and baskets.
This happens to be the scene every morning since the Nizam era in this locality dominated by the Yemeni community where an auction of the locally home-grown fruits is held. Barkas incidentally happens to be a corrupted form of Barracks.
According to historians, the Yemeni community came to the city in the early 18th century and got recruited in the Nizam army. “Our ancestors were known for their fighting skills and joined the Nizam army and later moved to various positions in the administration,” said Talha Kaseri, a local leader and social worker.
The community, as a hobby, had grown mulberry, guavas, figs and water apples in their houses. “After the Nizam rule ended, some of them made it a full-time profession and raised more plants to strengthen their finances,” explained historian Mohd Safiullah.
Of late, during the Gulf boom in the 1980’s, many local youths left for the Middle East countries and their move transformed their families’ lifestyle. In the 20th century beginning, a few ventured into the land business and turned into realtors and builders.
Still, most of the family continues with the traditional practice of plucking fruits from trees located in their houses and now in farm houses orchards a few kilometres away and bringing it to the market. “It is more so reminding oneself of the hardship that their ancestors faced through some point of time in their lives. It inculcates a sense of discipline, both financial and moral, in them,” said Habeeb Akhtar Al Yafai, a local resident.
Over a period of time, the market gained recognition and curiosity-driven youngsters also started visiting the place to witness or participate in it.
“There is a high demand for these locally-grown fruits because they are organically cultivated and believed to be rich in nutrients,” explains Habeeb Mohammed Baghdadi, one of the auctioneers.
Habeeb has been a part of the market for the past 35 years. “I accompanied my father-in-law in the initial days and would spend around long hours in the market and earn enough money. Now, our earnings do not cross Rs 200 a day after a two-hour auction process. But still, we carry on, to keep the local character of market intact,” he points out.
Abdul Aziz Misri, another auctioneer who has taken over from his father Hassan Misri, says, “earlier, people were heavily dependent on the sale of their produce to manage their household expenses. Over time, the practice of growing fruits has come down.”
Realising the significance of the practice, the community elders recently held a meeting and felicitated those who continue to be part of the auction proceedings. “Auction of fruits is an integral part of the local practices here. So, we are making efforts to revive the market once again and promote it in a big way through social media,” explained Talha Kaseri.