Twenty years ago when I did my first part-time job during my summer holidays, it was rare to find girls working in the field of Direct Sales. The role involved ‘door-to-door’ sales, cold calling, working late in the evening etc so was in many ways not an ideal job for them. So it was interesting for me to come across a Bengali girl who was two years younger to me and spunky enough to revel in the job. I share a few memorable episodes where I got to observe and judge her character.
I noticed her the first time because she narrated a very odd experience. She had a confirmed ‘call-back’ to sell the newspaper subscription package. Sadly there had been a death in the customer’s family, so showing some ‘presence-of-mind’, she had quickly offered her condolences to the grief-stricken family and walked away. She narrated the incident to us in a ‘matter-of-fact’ manner and did not seem to be upset about the lost sale. A fellow canvasser cracked a joke about leveraging our paper’s offer to publish free Obits in order to pursue the sale. The comment was in poor taste and she gave him a withering look.I was impressed by the dignified way she conducted herself.
I got to know her better and learnt that she loved to read books. In fact Somerset Maugham was her favourite writer as well. For hours we prattled along discussing his novels and short stories. We exchanged some books for reading as well – she gave me ‘The Narrow Corner’ while I lent her ‘The Moon and The Six Pence’.
She had just appeared for her HSC exams and was very articulate. She did not shy away from picking up a fight – be it her fellow canvassers, customers or our coordinators. She believed strongly in the spirit behind our paper’s subscription campaign while for many of her mates it was just a routine job. Once it so happened that she had a string of bad days at work, with no conversions – she simply felt the need to take a break for a day. And off she went to watch one of our mindless hindi potboiler movies. I felt that was quite cool.
Our gang climbed the Lohagad fort during the weekend. She twisted her ankle and was in some pain. She showed up for work the next day and went about her routine without cribbing about the injury. She lost her wallet the other day and a good amount of money (about a month’s incentives I should say). She didn’t bat an eyelid about it – all her grief was about losing the ‘treasured’ wallet that had been gifted to her by her late grandmother. She is generous with her money as well – she just gave off her weekly incentives to a rickshaw driver who was ill.
We had a celebration on after receiving our salary and had just learnt the one of our coordinators – Rahul Wadnerkar – was getting married shortly. The girls decided to have some good fun. They told the poor fellow that they could predict her name. They asked him funny questions and drew crazy lines of his palm. Not sure whether he played along or was genuinely surprised when they finally wrote that she would be called, ‘Mrs. Rahul Wadnerkar’. It was an old trick but the group enjoyed the game all the same.
Summer hols came to an end soon and with it our part-time jobs ended as well. We resumed our college and lost track of one another. Still I remember this girl and her rare enthusiasm for a Direct Sales job. She would have agreed with me that, ‘If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.’