Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The bangle seller

Our bangle seller is an elderly man from a village near Kothapeta. He goes to different neighbouring santas (weekly markets) on the santa days. On other days he takes different directions and covers villages on that route. He comes, carrying his spotless white canvas double bag slung over his shoulder. The weight of his load could be twenty kilograms, and he walks with this slowly from village to village. He would himself be past sixty years. 

His coming is like the coming of an old friend. When he comes to the village he hears someone call out to him and he goes to that house. He unfolds and spreads out his white plastic mat. This mat is made by neatly stitching together opened out rice plastic sacks. He sits down and patiently unpacks each bundle of bangles and spreads out all the wares. He opens boxes of bangles of the latest style called ‘petti gajalu’ (box bangles). All ladies gather around the glittering glass bangles. Some women buy, and others watch. He chooses a size that fits snugly, and with a practiced hand gently eases them on. The older women choose a type of glass bangle that is sturdy. The sturdy ones last through all the wood chopping and other hard work. The younger girls often go in for frailer, glittering bangles. Once he puts on the bangles, the lady does an obeisance to the bangles spread out. The women like buying bangles for one another when they can afford it.

When he is told how long his bangles last, he looks pleased, and says that is all he wishes to hear. There is only a genuine satisfaction that his product pleases. It is immaterial to him that if bangles last more, his sales will decrease.

He is paid his ten rupees per dozen bangles. For years, this was the rate and I wondered how his economics worked when everything else in the market was getting costlier. After ten years, the price has gone up to fifteen rupees. It is still not enough to counter inflation.

There are also other bangle sellers, all women, but they are not as regular as this old man. The old man’s sons do not go selling bangles, and these pleasant visits will end with his time.

There are other women who carry a shoulder bag and sell ‘pakka pinnilu’, meaning hair pins (and other assorted items.)

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