The Smiling Salesman

“Ma, look! Look what I found in the book!” squealed Nethra in excitement.  “What is it ma what is it?” Shoving the piece of paper in front of my face, she breathed, “Is it about hidden treasure?!”

“Okay, let me first see” I laughed at her excitement and took the paper from her while carefully closing and placing the Encyclopaedia on the side. It was an old book, much used; one that had lasted me all my childhood and now was seeing my daughter’s. The paper in my hand seemed to be a page torn out of a notebook. I curiously opened it out. Nethu was going through an explorer-pirates-old parchment-treasure phase, and no wonder she thought it was a treasure map, as the page had yellowed, and the writing was quite faded. I could make out that it was my mother’s writing though. Even while scribbling her handwriting was so beautiful…  “Its written by your patti” I told my impatient little girl. “And it seems to be a story. I think..” “Can you read it for me ma..please..?”

There he was again. Wearing a crisp blue shirt and dark blue tie and the usual cheerful smile, he was working the road on my right, expertly weaving through the vehicles. How does he do it, I wondered. How can he manage to smile all the time? That too when no one had given him reason yet to do so? I glanced at the signal impatiently, and again looked to my right. He was moving closer now, coming onto my road. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, fuming at the amount of time wasted at this signal every morning .It was one of the busiest crossroads in Pune and I always spent at least 10 minutes waiting for the signal to turn green and for my turn to hasten to my office. Why do I even hurry? I wondered today. Its not like I even enjoy my job. I looked up just then, and there he was, approaching my car with a wide smile when the signal turned green. Shrugging my shoulders at him, I whizzed past with the feeling of having been released from jail. Ironic, since I was actually rushing to one!

I got off from work early today. I had a few errands to run. I found myself at the same signal, and there he was, still. He was there in the morning at 830, and here he is still, at 630 in the evening. And yet, he was smiling. There s something to be learned from him about attitude, I chided myself as he approached me .As I rolled down the window, he recognised me as one of the regulars and said “Hello madam. Are you sure you don’t need them?” he said, smilingly pointing at the heavy book in his hands. “No, thank you” I returned with a smile and he shrugged and smiled widely again. He never ever pushed.  He was a salesman of Encyclopaedias, possibly one of the worst jobs one could have (I had to admit, even worse than mine). How often does a person buy an expensive encyclopaedia? And that too at a traffic signal? In fact, how many people even want to read these days? And yet, there he was, day after day, wearing a crisp shirt and a tie and his ever present smile, always polite, never pushy, apparently selling encyclopaedias. The thing astounded me.

Soon I changed my job, and with that changed the route I took. A year had passed when I came to be at that junction again, and I was in a good mood. My eyes automatically roamed the crossroads looking to see if he was there, my salesman with the attitude. A knock at my left hand side window had me turning, only to find a familiar smile. Smiling back, I rolled down the window. “After a long time madam?” He enquired. “Yes. How are you?” I asked. He still had the book in his hands. “Oh!” I put my hands on my belly at the kick. I was happy, and I wanted to share the happiness. I looked at the signal. It was about to turn green. “Will you come over to that side? I want to buy your book” I told him to his astonishment. “There, right there” I pointed as the light turned green and the multitude of vehicles moved as a mass forward. I stopped to the side and he soon caught up. “You will really buy, madam?” he asked, unsure. “Yes!” I exhaled exuberantly while placing a reassuring hand on my tummy again. I felt a rush of joy and goodwill. Was it my expectant hormones at that point? I don’t know, but I feel gratitude for that man, who unwittingly made me happy just by being himself. How many of us can claim such an honour?

Who knew there was a story behind the first book I laid eyes on?! Thus it was that the encyclopaedia was the first book that was bought for me, before I was even born, before any picture books and flap books and 3D books. For the first 6-8 months, my mother read to me from it. I would turn the pages curiously, looking at the pictures, probably wondering about an exotic mysterious world (This is what she told me) Much later when I was big enough, I remember many an evening spent thumbing through it, lost in fascination in this ocean of information. I was a product of the internet generation, but I retained the love for a book, a lasting legacy of my parents, and in a way too, of the smiling encyclopaedia salesman.

“What does patti mean ma? I don’t understand! Was he a nice man?” asked my little five year old, squeezing her brows together in confusion. All the times spent with that book flashed through my head like the reels of a movie, and all the times I have seen my one thumbing through it… and I said, “Yes baby, he was a nice man”.



Summer Days are here

Summer time!

The end of exams, & the promise of long days of fun..

You won’t hear me complaining about the sun


Summer time!

End of exams, beginning of holidays

Long afternoons & even longer evenings

Board games, made up games, badminton, & truant play


Summer is Mangoes!

Raw Mango pickle & cool curd rice

Mango shake, Mango ice cream, Aam ras – & paying the price!


Chilled Melons , ganne ka ras

Driving mom crazy till she gets vexed


Summer is my Birthday!

A shower of new clothes & gifts & love


Summer is reading (novels)! , undisturbed by homework

Lending Libraries & visits to the bookshop

Reading every second of the day

That I am not playing, or sleeping or eating!


About Secret Islands & Faraway Trees,

Murder mysteries, & tales of chivalry



Summer is that visit to my hometown!

Cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents

Lots of noise & food & joy!


Its summer time!


Now that I am grown up & working & responsible (at least I say so 🙂 ) its somewhat different –

Summer is work, work & no respite

Heat, perspiration & no lights!


How perspective changes when you grow up….Which is why I still like to associate summer with the colours & feelings when I was young…& carefree!


I do love summer !

That day of the year again!

My birthday is just around the corner again. I am turning a really grey-with- strands-of-white twenty seven ….I have just come back after finally hitching a tailor to stitch my blouse since I have promised to wear a saree on the DDay…And I cant help thinking, why do we make such a fuss out of it? ( not that I don’t love it! )

In my school days I remember it was the one day when people used to wear a civil dress to school & bring toffees for everyone. The teacher would call the particular kid to the front of the class & we would all sing a noisy “Happy Bday to U” . I, somehow always bunked school on my birthdays because the very routine mentioned above that made people wait for this day used to scare me to bits ! I always used to take toffees on the next day for my close friends though…The only time I did go to school was in the 11th ( by when thankfully u were too old to really go to school in a color dress 🙂 ) and my friends gave me a good scare with an unknown gift from a mystery guy !

My most special birthday would be the one in which he & I met the first time in the capacity of ‘sweethearts” from being “friends” …We were back in college after a 3 month long hiatus & decided to go for a walk… he gave me a book – my birthday present. It was a very well worn ( & torn ) James Hadley Chase, an author whom my father denounced as ‘trashy” since the time I remember and therefore considered so all along by me…& I didn’t know what to say. I looked at him somewhat confused while at the same time rifling through the pages of the book, and, right in the middle in a carved out crevice, lying in a bed of cotton were the most beautiful pair of coral studs….My first gift from him & the one dearest to my heart. Since then he has bought me gold & diamonds & what not…but those- those were truly precious!

Well he is not here for my birthday (again) and well…I just thought a subtle message is in order… don’t u think? 🙂

About Kolams & native places…

We tamilians ( may be all South Indians) have this practice of adorning our door ways with a Kolam (Rangoli). The early morning ritual of washing the doorway & making the kolam is followed without fail by every lady of the house. Kolams are supposed to be made early in the mornings after bath and are supposed to welcome Lakshmi into the house & generally bring good luck.Its however not the same when you are in a flat…you don’t have to sprinkle water & wash because it’s a concrete floor after all…and you don’t want to drown the verandah with water …plus of course there is only so much space.. but even so, people like my mum continue the tradition with much enthusiasm.


My kolams are mood dependent ( To make or not to make, then what to make-too many questions!) – Some how I can never stay satisfied with the standard floral or geometric motifs ( Some would say just an excuse for not knowing them so well 🙂 ) Anyways I make just about anything from a scenery to flowers to people to smileys to…well just about anything that I can manage to draw – its fun & I do enjoy them ( As long as I manage to wake up , of course!)


I think of kolams and I think of Sri Rangam…In fact ,the one unforgettable picture I have of my native place Sri Rangam, which is a little temple town in Tamil nadu is that of one day early in the morning when we had just arrived by train ( from Hyderabad I think, for my summer holidays). It was 5 am in the morning & dawn was about to break…and the little town was just rousing itself…

We took a maattu-vandi ( bullock cart) that day to get home from the station… …The early morning quiet was only broken by the intermittent jingling rhythms of the bullock cart – as if peace had conquered that moment and spread contentment in the air. All through the way home I saw many entrances already adorned with kolams – beautiful, intricate designs, some plain white & some bursting with colour , mingled with the smell of the freshly washed earth…they managed to etch a permanent place in my memories…Sri Rangam never was and never will be , what it was for me that morning….