The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (#KGAF) is keeping Mumbaikars merrily occupied this week. They visit the Kala Ghoda Art District (a term I’ve only recently got to know about) not only to shop for elegant/ loud knick-knacks, novelty art created from waste, and beautiful handloom creations (oh, the joys of hand-made Indian clothing!), but also to make sense of the modern art installations (I could never wrap my head around these, never mind what the descriptions say), to be seen as contributing to the Indian arts/ culture/ recycling, and, intriguingly, to take enough ‘selfies’ for the latest fb check-in.
The proximity of the Festival to my office made it an opportunity hard to miss. The hard work that the Kala Ghoda Association puts in to bring such a fascinating mosaic of art to Mumbai each year is highly commendable. Thus, I enjoyed strolling past the numerous colourful stalls, sometimes lingering a little longer at some to drink in the richness of Indian handicrafts. I could not help but notice how much the style of the ‘salespersons’ at each stall varied from one to the next. A simple but instructive chance to observe human behavior, I thought.
If you find yourself at the KGAF anytime (you have until Valentine’s Day), you are likely to meet these nine types of salespeople:
- The Passionate Promoter
This person is so deeply immersed in what he makes that his love for the article he sells could make you want to buy it. He talks about it animatedly. He mentions the hard work that goes into creating each piece. He talks about where the money he’ll make from the Festival will go. He talks about how you can reach him for more quantities if you like.
- The Laid-back Observer
This person seems like a mirror looking back at me. She keenly observes the crowds of people coming in and going out, with just the hint of a smile playing on her lips. She shows neither with nor without words whether you are welcome to look at what she is selling. She doesn’t mind if you simply pass by without saying anything either, the expression in her eyes completely non-judgmental.
- The Chirpy Volunteer
This person is extremely helpful, providing you instantly with the (often atrocious) prices of the items you ask about, or items similar to the one you’ve picked up but in different colours, or items matching the ones you are examining to form a neat set. You could expect to add a shopping bag or two at this stall.
- The Snooty Wannabe
This person looks at you as if you’ve landed at the wrong doorstep or, at the very least, in the wrong clothing or footwear or headgear or eyewear! She looks at you with disdain, if not disgust, as if she’d rather not be bothered by riff-raff of your kind. She is probably selling artsy stuff, wearing artsy clothes, and running her artsy fingers over her many rings. When you ask her about any item, she looks at you as if she’s doing you a big favour by deigning to respond.
- The Wordless Artiste
This person is probably the ‘Indian’ whose Indian art you are here to admire. He would rather not give away his accent or the lack of his understanding of yours so he simply pushes a piece of paper under your nose so that you can see for yourself what the items in his stall are about. He writes down the numbers when you ask for a bill. You begin to feel for him and his awkwardness in this big unfamiliar city where people speak a language that doesn’t quite resemble Hindi.
- The Psuedo-Intellectual
This person seems to take joy in the finer things in life. She has (some) knowledge about the origins, processing and aesthetics of the articles she is selling and transfers it to shoppers generously. She treats each piece like a newborn baby, handling it with care and love. The weight of her words and the slow drawl of her voice seem to add to the value of the article in question.
- The Boarded-up Paranoiac
This person is more concerned that people will pilfer goods out of his stall rather than buy them. He keeps a scanty sample of his wares on the counter, with most of them stacked up behind him, away from thieving eyes. He would rather sell a handful of small-ticket items (less than INR 200) than risk showcasing the big-ticket ones (more than INR 1,000) just in case the latter are actually purchased…oops…stolen!
- The Bored-to-Death Volunteer
This person could not care less whether he makes any sales or not. He goes through the motions just so as not to appear a slacker but he clearly could be much happier elsewhere at the current time. Not even the sound of money could make him more animated.
- The Smooth Operator
This person is lucky to house wares that sell like hot cakes. She is so busy making sales that she has mastered the steps of the process to a T. These steps are:
(a) Customer points to an item.
(b) Before the customer opens her mouth, the salesperson shouts out the price of the item, even as she is handling another customer.
(c) Customer spends a few moments picking out her favourite colours.
Steps (a) to (c) may (or may not) get repeated.
(d) Salesperson mentally totals up the bill and relays it to the customer.
(e) Salesperson roughly packs the items purchased and hands them to the customer with one hand while accepting money for it with the other.
The whole process takes less than three minutes unless Steps (a) to (c) go into a repetitive loop.
Whom would you rather buy from at #KGAF this weekend?