I had a special mission this New Year: To help wife (party A), carry out the purchase of a gift pendant (Product X), on behalf of her sister (Party B), for Party B’s sister-in-law (Party C, who was not even party to the transaction). My wife got the detailed product specs from her sister over phone: “It should have traditional workmanship, but must be a little modern; you know what I mean, natty but not Jaal. Diamonds? Yeah Ok! Carat-Sharat chhod yaar; it must have some bling, basically. It should not be too-oo costly, but let it not look cheap, huh? You remember what Mrs. Jagatrakshakan wore for Choodamani’s wedding –something like that, hmm? Ayyo, you didn’t see what she was wearing-aa? What were you doing in the wedding-di? OK, OK, something like a cross between what Neeti wore for her engagement and Mrs. Damodaran’s dangler. Got it, naa?” Whatever !
I plunged with visible zeal into the mission. The basis for my enthusiasm was as follows: (a) “Any self respecting shop will be closed on New Year” (b) “Even if open, there will be no crowd – who will come out after a late night on 31st?” (c) “Moreover, in these days of recession and inflated Gold prices (P Chidambaram zindabad) who can afford to shop?”
I called GRT (the biggest jeweller in Tamilnadu) to confirm theory (a). “You didn’t know? GRT is open 365 days” said the manager, contemptuously. Well, I still had theories (b) and (c) as fall-back. When we reached GRT, the customer-traffic was so much, that the Parking Valets had given up and pretended to be passers-by in safari-suits. The 4 floors of the shop had more crowd than 16 platforms of Madras Central Railway station.
My macro-economic theories missed one development: GRT had just overtaken Marina Beach as the most desired destination for an evening’s entertainment. The crowds were not the idle-rich or even the noveau riche. They were middle class guys who had come in 2-wheelers. On an average each bike had 5 passengers – husband, wife and mother-in-law, plus one wailing kid each perched on the ladies.
GRT’s service orientation is outstanding. As you wade through the crowd in each floor you are asked by 17 supervisors “what would you like to buy sir?” I tried to explain our vague product spec to the first supervisor; but the next 16 times I just gave a beatific smile and focused on not tripping over the wailing kids.
They know that every transaction begins and ends with the husband (firstly, he drives the wife to the shop and lastly, he swipes the card), so they have a husband -centric strategy in place. For the bored husband, there are well-placed chairs with racks of newspapers. Should he fall asleep, never mind; they wake him up with a coffee when the wife needs to talk (usually about variance over budget).
They had plenty of balloons for the wailing kids and sometimes they gave it to deserving husbands as well. The only hitch was that, every time a child burst a balloon, I woke up with a start and imagined that we were in the middle of a heist. Unfortunately, there was no such quick ending to our shopping.
The wailing kids would not let me sleep, so I decided to investigate all the floors. Then, I spotted this interesting service in the second floor. The board on the counter advertised “Nose Screws”. Now, I am not squeamish about Oral Sex…. but Nose Screw? I walked closer and found the next counter had a signage saying “Nose Screw with stud”. Well, if you can get your car parked by a valet, you might well get a Nose Screw from a professional, I suppose. And then I spotted a third counter which said “Nose Screw with 2 studs”. Wow, this must be for real aficionados! This I must see!
Suddenly, I felt a firm grip on my shoulder. “Are you thinking what I think you are thinking, silly man?” – The questioner had the unmistakable voice of authority: my wife’s. She nose– I mean knows– what I have been thinking? “These counters are useless, sweetheart. Sister-in-law dear hasn’t pierced her nose, so we can’t gift her a nose-ring” Ah-so!
“Come, I have found just the thing my sister wanted”. Really?
She showed me. It was Trad but mod; looked bling but not jaal; it was natty and did not look cheap (honestly, it didn’t come cheap either). How did I know for sure? My wife said so, that’s how. It is ultimately all about having the right perspective, as every husband knows.