A painter by profession, 30-year-old Jairam sells lip-smacking sprouts at a city intersection just to develop healthy eating habits among the city-dwellers.
The youth is conscious of the hazards posed by plastic products and uses leaf bowls, leaf spoons and paper packets for his part-time business.
A latest research by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington that gathered data and trends in health from every country in the world found that eating a poor diet can be linked to nearly 1 in 5 deaths globally.
Broadly defined, a street vendor is a person who occupies a space on the pavements or other public areas and sells his wares for a living.
These people mostly work under demanding conditions and of course with threat of eviction.
However, they have for long been perceived as a public nuisance, accused of encroaching footpaths and having links with anti-social elements.
But here is a man who has redefined the fundamentals of street vending. For him this is all about generating awareness on habit of healthy eating and leading a joyous life.
Yes, he sells only sprouted grains to the conscious citizens. For 30-year-old Jayram Mallick painting is his profession but social activism is his obligation.
A visit to his tiny and neat stall at Omfed Square (near BMRI hospital) in Chandrasekharpur would surely change one’s perception about the characteristics of a street vendor.
You just cannot hold yourself from gobbling leaf-bowls full of nutritious sprouts drizzled with lemon juice down your throat. You have to spend just Rs 10 to relish each bowl.
However, make sure you visit him in the evening only as Mallick keeps himself busy in painting the entire day to keep his home fires burning.
“I am a painter by profession and it used to be my childhood passion. Painting keeps me engaged throughout the year – at least 20 days in a month.
My troupe gets assignments from corporate houses, advertisement agencies and also from temple authorities and building architects.
It fetches me over Rs 25,000 a month, which is good enough to offer a decent living to a family of three that includes my wife and 4-year-old daughter,” said the lanky guy from Salipur of Kendrapara district living at a rented accommodation in the state capital.
“Earlier, I used to take a lot of junk food and oily stuff. But soon I started suffering from hyperacidity and other health disorders.
Asked by a close kin, I opted for healthy eating habits. I shun unhealthy foods and added a lot of fruits, vegetables and sprouts in my menu and started leading a healthy lifestyle.
I gradually regained my health. Then I thought of spending a few hours every day to change the evening food habits of the city dwellers,” said Jayram when asked on the reason that drove him selling sprouts.
“I first put up a small stall near my rented house. It was a hit among students,office-goers and all those who are health conscious. Most of the customers are regular visitors to my stall.
Some office goers have even stopped taking junk and oily food. Every evening they order sprouts from my stall which gives me a sense of satisfaction.
They often ask me not to stop sprout sell as it is not only affordable, but beneficial for the health also.
There are several customers, who make it a point to take sprouts from me for their entire family for evening snack on their way back home from office,” the youth said.
Recalling an interesting incident, Jayram said, “Two young people visited my stall on an evening. They were impressed by the taste. What struck them most was the fact that the snack was being served in leaf bowls and palm-leaf spoons instead plastic wares.
The duo was Mr Abhisek Dwivedi and Mr Jagatbandhu Mohapatra working for promotion of safe and organic food under the banner
of “Bhoomika-India for Eco Food Campaign.” Later, they offered me a small but nice outlet and encouraged to expand the business.”
Even though Jayram is not highly qualified academically, he is pretty conscious of the hazards posed by plastic products. “I never use plastic or polythene as they pollute our surroundings; instead, I use biodegradable leaf-bowls.
For parcels, I use paper packets. Besides, I am very much concerned about hygiene and cleanliness. I am just performing my bit for ecosystem.”
Jayram has been running his stall for the past five months and wants to put up such stalls at every intersection of the city.
Pragati Prava is a freelance scribe, climate enthusiast and human interest story teller)