Walk into the Swachh organic bazaar in Hyderabad on a Thursday afternoon and you will see children busy filling vegetables inside colourful baskets, picking, weighing and packing them for delivery. From stocking to weighing to billing, the children, with learning disabilities, do it all.
Set up in January in 2017, the Swachh bazaar, located in a small locality in Hyderabad's Madhura Nagar, is a small weekly market run by Sahithi Reddy and Superna Bajaj, two enterprising women from the city, who also run Kshetram, a home schooling centre where the children study. Kshetram was set up 12 years ago and it is only recently that the two, who are also into organic farming, conceived the idea of an organic vegetable bazaar.
The market is run in front of the school and every Thursday, post 2 pm, the front yard bustles with activity. Children are visibly excited and it’s great to see them organising the shelves, weighing and packing.
“Superna has been into organic farming for the past few years. We have around 25 students, some with very minor learning difficulties, taught by 12 of our staff. The school gets over by 2 in the afternoon and the children are involved in various co-curricular activities every day. The kids, every Saturday, make a trip to the organic farm in Bodhuppal, where they learn farming activities along with the farming community there. Superna, who was already into organic farming, thought why not set up a bazaar for the kids, where they could learn more about organic produce and also run a small market by themselves,” Sahithi Reddy says.
The market, apart from vegetables, has a lot of organic products, from pickles, murrukus, soaps to millets and palm leaf baskets, all procured from organic vendors from various states. Every Monday, orders from customers are placed through WhatsApp and the students make a note of each customer’s products on separate sheets of paper. They then send a list of required items to the farmers who in turn deliver the products by Wednesday.
“We wrap up classes by around 2-3 pm every Thursday and the kids then begin their sales for the week. They carefully take each vegetable from the sack and put it into the vegetable baskets and then check the lists. They weigh each vegetable on the scale according to the customer specifications and then pack them in paper bags. We have a few delivery boys who will then drop the packets at each of the customer’s house,” Superna explains.
The market, more than a fun activity, is a mental exercise for the kids. They not only learn to identify each vegetable by its local name but also do quick calculations when adding up the customers’ bills. They make neat columns on sheets of paper, note down each customer’s name along with their items and quantity required. They add up the total cost and put the bill along with the packed vegetables inside each paper bag.
Organic produce apart from vegetables like rice, oil, organic chips, chikkis are all stacked in shelves inside a bamboo hut, where Superna makes note of each package sent for delivery. Occasionally, kids turn up at the counter and Superna helps them with numbers on the weighing scale to get the right quantity specified.
The kids are extraordinarily busy on the day because they are venturing into a business, a mini food truck, where the kids, along with a staff from the school will be halting at various points in the city and sell the organic produce. They have no time to stop and chat.
“Today is the launch and just like the bazaar, the food truck also will be a weekly activity where the children will sell all the organic products here apart from the vegetables. We will do a trial run until April 16 and then the kids will be home for the summer vacation. If the activity turns out to be fun for the kids, we will make it a part of their co-curricular programmes,” Superna explains, adding, “The mobile truck will head out to a different locality every day and will give the children a chance to explore and meet new people.”
The organic products inside the mini-truck not just include items sold from the farmers and other merchants but also cakes, rolls, breads and baguettes baked by the kids. A strong aroma of freshly baked breads wafts in as soon as one enters the school premises on Thursday afternoons. The kids inside the kitchen are busy kneading dough and placing large trays filled with cheesy mini baguettes.
“We have a chef who visits the school every week and teaches children baking,” Sahithi says. She goes on to add, “We used to initially take only weekly orders but when the numbers began to grow, we thought why not set up a market so that the kids get a first-hand experience at running a shop. We also teach them pottery, weaving, carpentry, crochet during other days. The food bazaar is also our way to ensure that the kids interact with people apart from their peers and learn a whole lot more."