A Man’s Job

RHA-142-2204 - © - Alain Evrard

 

Have you ever wondered why the salespeople at saree shops are mostly men? Isn’t it a little absurd, that something that is worn entirely by women, is sold almost exclusively by men. 

Well, I can attest to the fact that it’s certainly not because it’s every little boy’s dream. 

My dream was to be a movie star. Or a cricket player. Something that would make women look at me with awe and admiration. And as with many of God’s cruel pranks, I have to admit I get that in abundance. 

Walking into Brinda’s Saree Shop is like stepping into a fortress of pantones for every mood, taste and occasion.
All 4 walls are stacked with sarees from floor to ceiling, waiting to be pulled out and tossed onto the table for eager hands to inspect.
What is this material? What is the pallu like? Show me the blouse piece? Where can I find a matching fall? 

I have these answers at the tip of my fingers – the way a mother would when asked to describe her child – proud, keen to share more, and feigning criticism of things that aren’t actually faults.
“It’s a very unique piece, let me open it up for you and drape it, just that colour is a little modern.”

I drape it over my shoulder, letting the pallu fall over my arm in all it’s glory. I turn to my right to give them a side profile.
The theatrics of it all makes them smile. And I can tell I have their attention. 

Funny how, anywhere outside the 4 walls of this shop, a man in a saree would be so jarring to people. But here, no one bats an eyelid. They simply point at different points on the wall, nod when my finger lands on the right one, and wait for me to drape it over my shoulder.

I have to admit it was emasculating at first. To put on a saree in front of so many women. But the more I do it, the more I think only a man could do this job.

I drape the saree over me with expert skill. But the truth is, I’ll never look as good as a young saleswoman in it. And that’s exactly why I sell more sarees.
Our young saleswomen drape the saree over themselves, and suddenly, the old aunties think, maybe I can’t pull it off, maybe it’s too modern, maybe if I was a little younger…. 

But me, with my dark skin, broad shoulders and powerful moustache, standing there in a saree, dramatically waving my pallu, makes them think – if it looks good on him, it’ll certainly look good on me. 

And ofcourse, compliments from a handsome man like myself always manage to work their charm. I tell them that colour suits them, that they look stylish, that their husbands will definitely like it. I never say something I don’t mean. But I am liberal with my compliments, and I’m compensated generously with their reactions. 

I’ve sold kanjivarams silks to 18-year olds, sequinned chiffons to grandmothers, and convinced a widower to stop wearing white and buy a parrot green saree. 

I’ve draped sarees that would go on to be worn by brides, graduates, mothers-in-law, wives and gods, over my shoulder. And for that, I can’t help but be a little proud.

I am the top salesperson at Brinda’s Saree Shop. I know every one of the 4,234 handpicked sarees here, and see it as a personal challenge to beat my record every month. I experiment with new ways to wear sarees – Coorgi, Nauvari, Madisaru – just to surprise my customers. 

I never thought it would come to this. Like I said, few little boys dream of being a saree salesman someday. But you know, the money is enough, the shop is air conditioned and  I am surrounded by beautiful women who give me their undivided attention. 

If that isn’t a man’s job, I don’t know what is.

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