India’s One Quintessential Salesman


By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Last December, I was in Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu, a self-made city built by the enterprising instincts of Kongu Vellalars (Gounders) and Naidus, the two major communities that pretty much built the city and the region surrounding the city from scratch, with practically no support from federal or state governments.

Kongu Vellalar’s (Gounders’) and Naidus’ footprints are everywhere in the area  —  in elementary, primary, secondary education; 4-year colleges in arts and science; medical and engineering colleges; hospitals, primary care centers and charities; small and medium industries; and in patronizing performing arts.  In an area where one needs to go 300 to 400 feet deep to get water, these people also engage in farming and agriculture.  That is how hardworking and enterprising the people in the region are.

We were in the shopping area along Hundred-Feet Road in Coimbatore looking for a Pattu Paavaadai (reshmi lehnga) for my 3-yar old grand daughter. Hundred-Feet Road had several showrooms for silk saris and gold/diamond jewelry. These shops specializing in silks only sell the fabric in pure Kanchi silk for Paavaadais for 2 to 12-year old girls. The Paavaadai fabric, like expensive saris, comes with matching material for the blouse integrally woven at one end.

My wife and I were debating how the green pavadai would go with the pink/red blouse material for our 3-year old brown grand daughter. The salesman heard our discussion: “Ayya, oru nimisham,” or “Sir, wait an minute.” He continued in Tamil: “I will show you how it would look as a paavaadai-jaaket pair.”

I don’t know what he did, or how he did it. Within 30 seconds, he folded the single piece of silk fabric in a few complicated steps. Bingo! Magically, he made the same piece of fabric look like a paavaadai-blouse pair.

“Ayya, ippa parunga.” Or, “Sir, now you see.” With a smile on his face, he continued in Tamil, “This is how it would look on your grand daughter.”

I asked him to pose for a picture. And here it is.

Needless to say, he was so good, I also ended up buying more material than what I had in mind when I entered the shop. ♣

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