Kerala State Lotteries’ ‘Thiruvonam Bumper’, which promises a multi-crore bonanza for the winner of the lucky draw, is due today (September 19). And lottery ticket seller Shalu Jose is in his element, hollering out to passers-by that's its their last chance to buy the tickets. “There’s usually a demand for bumper tickets that are issued in time for festivals such as Onam and Christmas. This Onam, particularly, there seems to be a huge demand. Perhaps, the prize money of Rs.7 crore is the biggest draw,” he says, over the din of the loudspeaker that’s blasting out details of prizes up for grabs for the lucky few.
Customer after customer, some of them passers-by and some in fancy cars, stops by the tiny shop that Shalu manages in crowded Paithrika Veedhi, East Fort, just to buy the tickets that cost Rs. 200 each. Shalu carefully places each plastic-wrapped ticket into envelopes, before handing them to his customers. “Because it is worth much more than weekly draws, we’re taking extra care. Damaged tickets will invalidate the claim,” he explains.
There is an equal rush to pick up weekly lucky draw tickets, but this time his customers actually take the time to browse through the tickets before picking one up. “It’s the customers who regularly play the lottery who are particular about the serial numbers on the tickets,” he says, never taking his eyes of the stack of tickets.
“I’ve got to watch the tickets like a hawk. If I loose even one, I’ll have to shell out the price of the ticket from my own pocket. And because I’m not an itinerant lottery ticket seller who has to wander around the city, come rain or shine to sell the tickets, this is just about the only hardship I have to face in this job. Unsold tickets also cost us sellers dear – admittedly, not as much as it would be for itinerant sellers, but enough to make a dent in my earnings,” explains the 48-year-old. He adds that on good weeks he sells between Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 8,000 worth of tickets. “I get a percentage for each ticket sold,” he says.
Shalu used to work in a company that manufactured auto spare parts, but some three years ago certain debilitating health issues forced him to look for a job that demanded less physical labour. “Selling lottery tickets is just about the only thing I can do nowadays. Initially, I set up a lottery ticket stall at Vellayambalam but it ran into financial difficulties and I had to close shop. That’s when I got the job here. It’s not my ideal job but it puts food on the table,” says Shalu, who lives at Thycaud with his wife, Shanti, who works for the Nedumangad Municipality, and son, Kiran Kumar, a graduate.
So have any of his customers actually hit the jackpot? “Not yet. But a few of them have won small amounts and one got Rs. 25,000,” he says. "Maybe today is my lucky day..."
(This is a weekly column on the men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)