One of the extraordinary benefits of travelling is that you get to meet people across different sections of the society. From the Principal of a college to a Paanwala. From a teacher to a Taxiwala. From a father, a hand loom weaver who is keen to get his son educated to a Fruitwala. And you get to learn from each one of them !
Latif is one such genuine and helpful person who is in the business of selling fruits in Thekkady, Kerala. His shop is located at the junction close to the private bus stand. We met him on the second day of our stay in Thekkady. We were on the look out for a fruit shop where we can get a range of fruits. We almost missed his shop but noticed it because of his stock of fresh pineapples. He had stocked fresh mouthwatering pineapples, bananas, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, apples, grape, oranges, lemons and even tender coconuts too. Latif has a very cheerful demeanour, a helpful nature and a genuine interest in the customer. Over the last one week, besides helping us choose the best of fruits at value for money prices from his shop, he has gone out of the way to get us introduced to the best banana wafers, a good vegetable shop, and most importantly this morning the best Kerala breakfast we have had since we landed in Kerala in mid June. While Latif personally came with us to introduce us to the owner of the wafers shop and the dry fruits shop, for the other items, he used his mobile phone. He is even helping us get our umbrella repaired and might join us this evening to go to an oil mill where we would get coconut oil of outstanding quality.
We love to meet people like Latif and having a conversation with them. Latif himself is a success story who has grown through sheer hard work and a genuinely helpful attitude. From a young boy who came to Kerala from Tamil Nadu as a daily wager, he has today a very successful fruit shop that supplies a variety of fruits to hotels and resorts in Thekkady. He has got his children educated, and has also gotten his sisters married and well settled. He listened with rapt attention when we explained to him what we do in ShikshaDaan and why we travel across India for ShikshaDaan. He gave us the location of a NGO nearby that runs an orphanage and a school. He was surprised and happy to hear that we hardly eat outside/hotel food and have a very different lifestyle compared to most of his customers. This morning, in our third visit to his shop in the last one week, our conversation was around the health benefits of dropping refined sugar completely and replacing the same with jaggery.
In meeting Latif, we have met one more genuine human being who has become successful through genuine handwork and excellent customer service. I wonder, what if, we had not met Latif… we probably would have liked Thekkady less 🙂