The bus stop at Mohanur was humming with activity on that hot Saturday afternoon in May. Crowds thronged around, waiting for their buses or eating in one of the many hotels that lined the area. Hawkers yelled out their wares, calling out to people whom they recognized as not being locals.
To the side of a pillar that supported the bus stand roof, sat she. She was silent, observing people as they passed by, not calling out or marketing her cucumbers which were laid out impeccably on white sheets spread on the ground.
I went ahead to go talk to her, but the field officer grinned, saying, “Wait, she will realize we are watching and come to us herself.” She turned out to be right. After a few minutes, noticing that the field officer and I were watching her, she jumped up and offered me her hand. Surprised, I gave her a handshake, while she introduced herself, “My name is Geetha, ma’m.”
Geetha Mani is the member of a five-women group, all of whom had taken loans to start their own micro-enterprises. Geetha sought the loan to manufacture and sell masala powders. It’s only been a couple of months since she started this trade and it’s already a raving success. “But that’s not new for Geetha, she is a multi-tasker and is part of many businesses,” chipped in the field officer.
Geetha blushed and explained, “Before the masala powder business, I worked at Vijaya Hotel nearby. My family loves good, tasty food and working in the food industry made me happy.” Her husband works as a parotta master and when the couple gets some time, they take up food contracts to serve people in small-scale events and functions in Mohanur. A shrewd saleswoman, Geetha also sells vegetables at the local farmer’s market.
Geetha has been selling cucumbers at the bus stop during summer every year for the past 35 years. “I remember coming here with my mother every day and setting up shop,” she reminisced. “My favourite part was watching people and observing the knick-knacks they bought from around here. After my mother’s death, I didn’t want to give up on this business and hence carried it over.”
Now, her day at the bus stop starts at 10 in the morning and she shuts shop at around 7 in the evening. From decades of being a saleswoman, Geetha has made a commendable number of contacts and commands respect from many local businessmen. She claims there are at least 20 people who would help her out if at all she faced any financial troubles.
“Even for this cucumber business, farmers and vendors come here and give me the stock instead of me having to go get them,” she smiled. Not just the cucumbers, even for her masala powder business, she rarely has to carry out door-to-door selling. She sells them to the many acquaintances she has made over the years, mainly from Namakkal and Valayapatti. A monkey interrupted us at this point. He came running towards her stall, took a few cucumbers and scarpered. She looked on calmly and said, “Don’t mind him, he comes every day for my cucumbers.”
Sitting at home, being a housewife was never Geetha’s dream. She loved working and didn’t hesitate to take up any odd job. “I believe that my success is completely due to my honesty and hard-work,” she reflected. “Honesty in salespeople is rare these days, but once customers trust you, I think any business can only progress from that point on.”
My bus to return home had arrived and I felt sorry to part the company of a good-natured woman. “But you have to come back and have more of my cucumbers,” Geetha insisted, even as she packed a few to take with me. I thanked her and took leave, happy to have met a humble and successful businesswoman.