It was I who banished the little salesman from my life, when I bid adieu to rickety roadways buses and entered the ‘Orbit’ of luxury coaches. Gone was the nameless guy who sold the portable manual juicer for a song. The best part was the demo: grabbing the sleepy passengers’ attention with his raspy voice, he used to hold the contraption in one hand and an orange in the other. Then he would show us how to squeeze the last drop out of the fruit with effortless ease, while ensuring that the unwanted pips didn’t land plip-plop into the juice. It was a captivating performance, and I was once lured into buying the thing. I tried it at home repeatedly, but despite recalling every step, I failed to make the orange part freely with its fluid. All I got out of it were a few drops, plus the pips and the pulp. Of course, the dubious product neither had any guarantee/warranty nor an operating manual. My 20 bucks had gone down the drain, but I couldn’t help admiring the smart operator’s salesmanship. It seemed he had performed a magic trick, which wasn’t possible for me to repeat.
Once-bitten-twice-shy, I have valiantly kept all kinds of salespersons at bay over the years, including those who come knocking at my door, offering encyclopaedias, tool kits, washing powder and what-not at throwaway prices. I may not have bought anything from them, but it’s always been a delight to hear them going gaga over their goods, as if their life depended on it.
The ultimate blow to these fellows has been dealt by the online mega stores. With apologies to Winston Churchill, one can say that never was so much owed by so many (buyers) to so few (sellers).
Without putting up the least resistance, I have allowed these retail giants to plunder my bank account. Mouth-watering discounts, replacement guarantee, express delivery, efficient customer care — it’s all too good.com to be true. Day and night, I keep rubbing this 21st-century version of Aladdin’s lamp, whose genies vie fiercely with each other to woo and enslave me. But where’s the human touch, the one-to-one encounter, the amusing sales pitch?
All, though, is not lost, folks. Two types of salespersons are very much alive and kicking: the politicians and the godmen. Both sell the most imperishable of all products in India —HOPE. While the former promise you bliss in this life itself, the latter assure you happiness in the afterlife as well (No wonder even the biggest netas bow and scrape before the vote-swinging gurus). So what if some of them have to go to jail on the charges of murder, rape or corruption? Imprisonment enhances rather than diminishes their market value.
If left to their own devices, they can even put the whole nation up for sale. Their shenanigans make me nostalgic about the good old juicer wallah. Perhaps I’ll risk my fragile back one of these days and board a far-from-comfy roadways bus —just to check out whether he’s still around. I hope (against hope) that he has survived the cyber storm and is busy adding to his long list of gullible customers. His item might still be no good, but are election manifestos and dera-spun dreams any better?