The Saree Man
‘Should I show something in a different range then?’ Shakil was exhausted. All he wanted was to catch the last local home. The heat was killer, sweat dripping off his forehead despite the AC being on.
But what good could the AC do if the door to the showroom was mostly propped open, and the crowd got thicker by the minute? The season post-Covid was supposed to be a blessing – all the pent-up demand now that Omicron had positively immunized everyone and therefore, no wave was to be feared ever again. However, every blessing is a curse in disguise and vice versa…
‘No. Price range needs to be the same.’ Aunty ji was firm.
Thankfully, Shakil had mastered the art of sighing under his breath with a smile fixed on his lips. ‘Ji Ji, of course,’ Shakil eyed Sharma ji who in turn eyed him back. That eye of Sharma ji’s meant to show the customer expensive stuff no matter what they are saying. Once they are hooked, they can be reeled in to change their minds, and of course, there was a buffer that could be negotiated down. Win-win. The customer gets the satisfaction of a bargain and a sale happens.
“Varun is not going to even listen to this. Let alone do it. I barely brought up the simple matter of privacy —when his parents visit, they take over Kiran’s room. So, she then takes the study—which is a big sacrifice making I am anyway because I work from the study. But the study is right next to our bedroom…”
‘Priya, which one do you want?’ Neeru was a bit tired at this point. Priya’s issues with her in-law’s visits were more stale than some of the bandhani sarees they had been shown. This was as predictable as Diwali happening, an event in which Priya and Varun were blessed by Varun’s parents’ extended stay visit.
‘No green. Absolutely no green.’ Priya pushed away what was placed in front of her.
‘That doesn’t answer the question though, which one do you want then if not these?’
‘The matter of privacy is something he should understand, right? This would be us going without sex for 6 months.’
Neeru side-eyed the saree people, poor guys…
‘And what did Varun do? He got up and left. Just got up and left. Did I insult his parents? Did I say anything remotely offensive toward them? No. I was talking about us. But that’s the problem – when they come, there’s no us.’
Shakil knew that there would be no decision made soon. Madam had lost all interest in seeing the sarees, let alone judging them. He could put his bum down on the gaddi to catch a small respite for his tired legs, which usually served the additional purpose of immediately jolting the customer back into saree-buying mode. Nothing more motivating than a salesman appearing to slack.
But he didn’t want to. This was more important. And interesting. And tonight he was in a rush himself.
‘Priya listen, make up your mind and just go stay with your parents for a few days with the kids. Until they leave. This will teach Varun a lesson. He will be begging for you to come back.’
‘Which age are you living in Neeru!’ Priya was exasperated enough to grab the blue georgette lying on the side back into her lap. She needed to fiddle with something. ‘Who leaves their home these days? Mayka going concept is old Bollywood. Why should I leave my home?’
Shakil slowly pushed the blue georgette farther toward her. ‘Should I pack this one then, madam? Georgette is really back in. And the showroom will close soon too…’ Shakil could sense Sharmaji’s eyes burning into his back – he never liked his salespeople to rush customers. The customer would just delay the decision to the next shopping spree if rushed. But Shakil had to risk it.
‘No. Don’t want blue. Georgette is of no worth to me any more, what’s the point? My life is now going to be dry for months.’ She got up abruptly, followed by a relieved Neeru. ‘Will come again tomorrow, bhaiya.’ The latter offered apologetically.
‘It’s a problem of Indian men, I say. Useless and mother’s boys…’
They could hear Priya’s rumbles until the car door slammed close.
Shakil pulled the shutter half close and turned to Sharmaji. He might or might not bash him today, some days he let things slide – even dire matters like losing customers – and today Shakil had requested him in the morning itself. It was his anniversary. He needed to go home a bit early…
‘Go.’ Sharmaji was indeed letting it slide. Shakil grinned ear to ear, voicing his, ‘Thank You’.
‘No need to thank me, go.’
‘Wait.’ Shakil had almost pulled half his body out – he pulled himself back inside. ‘Tell one thing, you stay in one room, right? With your mother and wife? It’s your anniversary, so what? How will you celebrate without privacy?’ Sharmaji grinned suggestively.
‘Sir, we don’t have such complications,’ Shakil grinned back, ‘I put my mother by the railway station on my way to work itself. With a big bottle of water and a loaf of bread. Anyway, she is half senile. She will be there tomorrow morning too, I will pick her back up and drop her home before coming. It’s summertime so no risk of cold. And Amma understands. Haan, will be a bit late coming in tomorrow because of that but have to rush now, please. Otherwise, abandoning old ma by the station will go fruitless.’ Shakil pulled himself back out and rushed into the night.
‘Isn’t that Saree man?’ Neeru pointed out to Priya to distract her monologue. Their car had been stuck at the traffic light and Priya had been on a never-ending rant. Look at how he is sprinting.
Priya glanced out curious, trying to make out the fast-moving silhouette. ‘What does he have to rush to?’ She snickered.
Published previously on womensweb.in