I’ve been in the business for more than 20 years now. My brother D. Soundarrajan set up this shop 30 years ago, and I joined him after my Class 12.

Ours was among the first few shops on this road. We chose this location and our products — books, magazines, beeda, burfi and cigarettes — as there were many hotels around and people would be in a leisurely mood and ready to spend time and money after a heavy meal.

Beedas are our calling card. We specialise in sweet beedas, with rose-scented gulkand, fruit purees and chutneys. Initially, I took time to fold a beeda right; it was never perfect. Then, I watched my brother closely.

Days and months of practice later, I learnt the correct technique. Folding a beeda looks simple but it involves working at tremendous speed and knowing the order of things that go in. I can make a really complex beeda in less than two minutes.

People are in a talkative mood after a good meal and we get to be part of some memorable conversations.

We make ordinary beedas (Rs. 10) using local betel leaves. Our specials, made using bigger leaves from Kolkata, start at Rs. 15 and go up to Rs. 50. These are the leaves we use for our ‘cool’ beeda too, made using a mix of various pastes and some menthol. We store it in the refrigerator. It really cools you down!

Our rockstar beeda is the one made using Navaratan quiwam. This is a fragrant black paste. It refreshes you and scents your breath. A single bottle costs Rs. 500. We use it sparingly for clients who demand it.

The best part about my job is that I get to interact with so many people. People are in a talkative mood after a good meal and we get to be part of some memorable conversations. When we spend time with customers, we also remember their tastes and customise their beedas. How they love that special touch! It is hard work, but full of unplanned joys too. Some customers come back years later, asking for sweet beeda. They pop it into their mouths, and smile like all is well with the world. That makes me very happy.

D. Mahendran, 39, sells pan on East Arokiasamy Road, R.S. Puram, near Annapoorna