BENGALURU: The three-week long Mango and Jackfruit Mela — delayed because of a scarcity of fruit — opened at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens on Friday with a slight difference: An abundance of caution from potential buyers. In the wake of the Nipah virus (NiV) scare and with cautionary messages going around on WhatsApp and other social media forums, buyers and visitors are doublechecking fruits for bird and bat scratch and bite marks.
Despite the rain, an impressive number of visitors turned up on the first day of the fair where about 30 varieties of mango and jackfruit are on sale. Customers though were taking extra care while buying. “I visit the mela every year, but this time I am double -checking with vendors and finding out where they got their fruits from,” said Suresh Rao. “I personally checked the fruit for bite marks as there have been advisories not to eat such fruit.” Meghana P, a college student, said, “We are here just to have a look at what’s going on. Our parents told us about the deadly Nipah virus and have warned my sister and me not to eat any fruit here or drink fruit juices.”
Vendors and farmers too are taking care to ensure fruit with marks of any kind are not put on sale. Byarareddy, a farmer, said, “We have taken care to ensure no fallen mangoes have been picked up for sale. Here too, we segregate ones that are damaged. We hope the Nipah scare won’t hit business this year.”Over 90 stalls — 80 for mango growers and 10 for jackfruit growers — have been set up at the mela organised by the department of horticulture and the Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Ltd.However, not everybody is complaining; many customers cannot wait for the mela to open since they can buy several varieties of organic and carbide-free mangoes under one roof. Padma Girish, who has visited the mela for the past eight years, said, “We eagerly wait for this mela and we are upset that it was delayed this year. We love the fruits here as they are 100% natural. The farmers too are really nice to us and also educate us about the fruits.”
Among the many foreign visitors was Dr Wolfram Spreer, a German horticulturist with the World Vegetable Centre. “I am a big fan of mangoes, but I still don’t know all the varieties. This is my first time here and would love to come here every year,” he said. The mela is open every day between 8am and 7pm till June 15.