Salesman not Allowed

Sampurna Datta

Sampurna Datta

Govind was sceptical, yet excited. It was his first day at work.

He hails from a rural village in West Bengal and is the only one from his village who has made it to college and is cheered by all as “graduate bhaiya” in his little village. At times, amidst the sprawl of the bustling city, Govind would often miss the cool breeze of his quaint village, the people, who are all known to each other, the smell of the soil and the dripping trees after the first rain, the little river and the days he would pass with friends trying for a nice catch and return home with a long face. Then also mother would always greet him with a smile, waiting with rice, a humble vegetable curry, green chilli and raw onion. That meal, though not fancy, never tasted bad. However, the dabbawalas of the city were never able to excite his taste buds and he would tell himself "it's the touch you are missing".

Govind's father had leased a part of their agricultural land to help him continue his studies till college but after that Govind decided to work and study. A commerce graduate, 'Accounts' 'Marketing' and 'Sales' ran in his blood. He would spend hours explaining to his father how they can facilitate to sell the agricultural products in the wholesale markets of the cities, thereby get a grip on the entire market. Moreover, he had plans to diversify the business and bring transport facilities at a much lower rate to ferry fresh farm products to cities. Father would listen to him and ask, "Is it possible?" Govind would reply with confidence, "Baba, give me a few years, I'll bring this dream alive."

All these thoughts were crossing his mind when suddenly his name was called for, "Mr Govind Mahato". He had excellent marks but was a fresher in a never ending splurge where there was a radical imbalance of opportunities and its seekers. So, Govind responded to the first job offer and thought it to be the beginning of his road to success. He was basically going to head a group of 5 men, trying to sell water purifiers. Amidst the many water purifiers available in the market, they had to present theirs as the best one. Exaggerate every inch of it, capture the best angle and squeeze in a deal. “The buyer had to buy the words and not the purifier”, Govind explained to his team with an inherent expertise in his voice. The target customers were the women and retired, staying at home, who would entertain demonstrations as such, to bring some diversity in their seemingly monotonous life, and Govind and his team set out to cash on that.

Calcutta, which has over the years evolved into a city dotted with posh malls and high rise, was, however, unknown to Govind. A city, which scorches blinding bright in the sun and twinkles luxuriously in the night light, doesn't have a very merciful heart inside. Every housing or building that housed lucrative customers inside had a very disturbing board outside - "SALESMAN NOT ALLOWED". The first one, second, third. Chance denied without trial. Govind started to feel dejected. "Are we stray dogs?" "Don't people buy things?" Govind didn't know, that it was against the statistics of status. Yes, people do buy things, from posh malls, showrooms or online, his new-born rival. He, however, managed to enter a few households, who showed promising enthusiasm and praise for the product, but the price seemed to spoil all of it. At lunch, all had similar stories to share. They also had one unanimous query lurking in their minds, "Why are salesman not allowed?"

In the post lunch session, Govind cheered up his team and himself and with new hope went in front of a building. Two men were caught in a conversation. One was outside the gate and the other was inside.

“Sir, I came last week, you remember. Madam Malhotra, second floor, knows me well. She has asked me to come, today.” said the man standing outside.

“She only asked me not to let people like you in, bhaiya. Please go.” Said the security guard.

The man wanted to say something when the security guard got a call and busied himself in it. The man, somewhat dejected, gave a long exasperated look at the building and turned back. Govind was watching him intensely, and suddenly their eyes met. The man almost promptly said, “difficult job”. Govind gave a wry smile and asked him, “Why isn’t the guard letting you in?”

The man replied, “This building too, have stopped allowing salesman.”

Something made a thud sound inside Govind, he was meeting a man from his own clan. A salesman. Immediately he stretched his right hand with a smile and said “I am Govind, I am a Salesman too.”

The man introduced himself as Manoj Roy, a resident of Digha. A village boy. A graduate. Got the job of heading a sales team, with the promise of a yearly increment once his team achieves a target number of sale. “The figure seemed quite achievable 7months back”, said Manoj sipping tea from the earthen cup, called bhar in Calcutta, “but now with 5months left, it seems like an epic battle every day to even get hold of customers.” Manoj and his team would sell, vacuum cleaners. Govind heard it all and asked, “Are all the localities like this? No one allows salesman?” Manoj smiled at his innocence, paid for their tea and said, “No, not all. Let’s go, hopefully will meet you again.”

Govind could not make out the smile. Was Manoj trying to console him?

That day and the following two weeks Govind and his team was able to sell only two water purifiers. In the meantime, Govind has met Manoj quite a few times and every time the dark circle under his sleep deprived puffy eyes seemed more prominent. It was on a Friday afternoon when Govind and his team was out, when he noticed a crowd has assembled in front of a building. Sensing some sort of tension he went ahead, hoping to meet a few people and start a conversation. The building was scarcely cemented, almost exposing the skeletal bricks in some places. The doors and windows were mostly had washed clothes hung on them. It was situated at the back of a very posh locality and almost looked like a creeper. The gate was open and he made his way towards the building where he was stopped by the watchman-"Hey, where are going?" "Who are you?” Before he could explain, he started again, almost shutting him, "Look young man, as you can see, something has happened, anytime police will arrive now. A man has committed suicide in one of the apartment, so I can't let you go in." Govind turned and started to walk away when he heard the watchman talking to his mate, "Bhaiya, he was a salesman, worked very hard, he was frustrated...may be..."

The rest of the words did not penetrate his ears, the only words that echoed in his mind were, and “he was a salesman…”

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