I was a girl when my parents migrated to India from Tibet. It was during the Indo-China war. Over the years my family found its way to Orissa, and I come to Coimbatore in the month of June and do business till January.
When we come here we live in Gandhipuram in a refugee colony. We have been doing business here for the past 15 years. I sell woollen garments in Town Hall in the cold months here. They are a little expensive, but they are of good quality. I sell sweaters, mufflers, monkey caps and socks. Many of my customers are older people, some chaiwallas and cobblers. I enjoy bargaining with my customers. We go to and fro for about 10 to 15 minutes till we reach a compromise and both of us are happy. I speak Tamil and that surprises many people here. I also know Kannada as we have done business in Bangalore. In the beginning I would talk to people here in Kannada too before I picked up Tamil. I am akka to the younger people here. And every one is very friendly and helpful.
Of course, there are days when I have to be stern too. Once someone leaned on my stack of clothes and the whole thing toppled over. I had a hard time arranging it again. As I do not have a proper shop, it takes me two hours to arrange everything. It is also uncomfortable and tough when it rains. I have to protect my goods from getting wet and the business drops too. It is difficult when it gets too hot and sunny too.
I come here every morning at eight and spend all day before packing up at around seven in the evening. I bring lunch from home or my daughter or husband brings it for me. And I never miss my tea breaks. I need tea occasionally to refresh me. I have one cup in the morning and one cup in the afternoon.
Praying is another important part of my daily schedule. I am a Buddhist and I have visited Dharamshala and Bodhgaya. I always carry a rosary on me.
I have two daughters and a son. My son is in school and both my daughters are educated. One of them is working. I don’t want my children to do this job. I want them to lead a better life than mine.
(A weekly column on men and women, who make Coimbatore what it is)