CHENNAI: Sitting in a back alley listening to the loud echoes of temple chants is Girija. Dressed in a rag-like saree, she sits in the corner with her wares on display — luminous earrings, glittering chains and multitudes of beads in all shapes and sizes. She calls attention to her goods the moment she spots prospective buyers passing by. A pattern evolves as one observes her calls of ‘Come look at the beads madam, new fashion jewellery also available.”
Lone women, groups of young girls and mothers accompanied by their daughters who have come to pay an evening visit to the Kapaleeswarar temple are her targets. With years of selling on the street, she says it’s not hard to tell who might buy. “Many come and click pictures but don’t want to buy. Some look and want to buy but are not willing to spend,” she smiles.
Coming from the minority gypsy community called ‘Nari Kuravar’, tucked away in a tiny pocket of the city, Girija says there isn’t much going for them.
“We either sell beads and jewellery or work as sanitation workers. There are not that many options for us, nor is anyone interested in employing us,” she rues.
The mother of four, who usually runs her roadside trade near Saidapet bus stop, reveals that Mylapore is her yearly haunt. “I come here during the temple festivals,” she says, adding that police and Corporation eviction is bearing down on them hard.
Tucking her earnings into a little sling pouch, she reveals it is scary to acknowledge how many vendors are driven away and feels that it may be an impending doom for her business as well, which supports her family. “If they could just give us space to do our job without harassing us, we are satisfied,” she says. But for now, she hopes that this Sunday’s Kumbabishekam ritual at the temple can bring some business her way.
“My older son is getting married soon, it would be nice to have some money saved up by then,” she adds.