The organic fruit market at Barkas in Hyderabad, where various varieties of locally-grown fruits are auctioned, is beginning to lose its charm. Non-locals have started bringing their produce and putting it up for sale. The market was set up at least seven decades ago, at a time when every household in the area had fig, guava, mulberry and water apple trees.

Teenagers would pluck the fruits every morning and bring them to the market to be auctioned. Even today, there is a high demand for these locally-grown fruits beca-use they are organically cultivated and believed to be rich in nutrients. Om-er Bin Hawail, a local resident, says that locally-grown fruits sell for higher prices as compared to non-local produce.

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The word ‘Barkas’ is a corrupted form of the word ‘barracks’. The area originally served to hou-se the bodyguards of the Asaf Jahi rulers. The population is predominantly made up of members of the Chaush community from the Hadh-rami region of the Republic of Yemen. Historian M.A. Qayyum says that their ancestors were deployed at the tre-asuries of the then-rulers.

The market continues to draw huge crowds, including hawkers, fruit vendors and curious youngsters from the city; and the locally-grown produce is insufficient to cater to the demand. Habeeb Moha-mmed Baghdadi, one of the auctioneers, says that farmers bring guavas and figs from the villages of Maheshwaram, Kan-dukur and Thimmapur mandals in the adjoining Ranga Reddy district to be sold at the market.

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Habeeb has been a part of the market for the past 35 years. As a young man, he would visit the market along with his father-in-law, who was one of the auctioneers. “Then, we would spend around half a day in the market and earn enough money. Now, our earnings do not cross `200 a day after a two-hour auction process.

But still, we carry on, to keep the local character of market intact,” he says. 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. But after the Gulf boom, living conditions changed rapidly. Over time, the practice of growing fru-its has come down.” He adds that a rise in the number of constructions in the area has reduced the amount of space available for cultivation. #KhabarLive