Road intersections in India truly reflect the sociological and economic changes taking place, especially years post liberalization. What started as a phenomenon in the Metro cities has spread to other growing cities like Pune.
Anybody who has waited at these intersections have witnessed all kinds of products being sold, while one waits for the green light. These junctions in the nineties and early 21st century were captive markets in a sense, to sell pirated Chicken Soup series of books, popular fiction, flowers, Indian flags twice a year, magazines and what have you. The range of late has expanded to toys, household items and even the almost forgotten encyclopedias! How this system works and where they get their stuff from, I know not. But it’s absolutely marvelous to see what is new on offer.
I have always been a sucker for such folks having bought a lot of stuff, many times at the goading of my soft- hearted daughter or falling for the emotional appeal of the seller tapping the car window. There’s always a dilemma on whether to support this marginalized class by buying the stuff they are selling, which is better than begging or ignore them since the busy roads should not be used for such purposes.
For couple of years now I notice a well turned out youngish man with bagful of books smilingly engaging car-wallahs on various books that he is selling. From Children’s encyclopedias to science books for children to other exotic books I always see him on the same street and somehow he notices me and tries his best to sell me one. I have not found anything I want to read but I don’t want to appear rude or disappoint him, so I tell him why that particular book is not useful or that I may already have it. Sometimes I’ve tried to pretend that I don’t see him. But he is a clever bugger! He manages to lock eyes with me and with a smile will show me a book.
After more than a year of finding creative excuses I’ve begun to feel sorry for the guy, who is working hard on behalf of publisher/authors to push their products standing in the heat or rain, breathing the polluted air. I’ve never seen him without a smile despite the numerous rejections he faces. I wonder why he toils, why he doesn’t give up and try something more easier. With this in mind I’ve started making small talk about the book on offer on that day. He is pretty well informed and knows quite a bit about the book. He has also started complimenting my dress or how I look hoping my vanity is boosted enough to loosen my purse strings!
Today he wanted to sell me a set of five books of Sanjeev Kapur’s recipes. I smiled and told him I’m not fond of cooking, so what can I do with that set? Like a good salesman he said, “You can gift it to someone.” He also fished out a coffee table book on the planets asking if that would be something I would like to gift. The books he sells are originals and cost a lot of money. Unless you have been looking for the book he has, I wonder why anyone would dole our 1000 or 500 bucks in a matter of 90 to 120 seconds that it takes for the lights to change.
One of these days I’m going to go over to him, maybe buy him lunch and find out his story.