“Everyone in my family has a Tamil name,” says a smiling, soft-spoken Anbuselvam, sitting inside his medical shop in T. Nagar. “My brother’s name is Arivuselvan, and my sister’s is Arulmalar.” Ironically, Anbuselvam’s father, Manickam, is the Head of Department of English in a college in Madurai.

A post-graduate in commerce, Anbuselvam was born and brought up in Madurai and came to Chennai to do business. “I bought this shop in 2004,” he tells me, while customers impatiently wave prescriptions even as he takes orders on the telephone. His staff are busy fetching medicines, bills and change.

Anbuselvam’s shop — Nandhi Medicals — has been around since 1983. When it came up for sale in 2004, Anbuselvam — with a couple of years of experience of running a medical store in Purasawalkam — saw it as a good business opportunity and bought it. With a staff strength of ten, including one full-time pharmacist, he talks of medicines and peoples’ attitude towards them.

“There’s a lot of awareness now. Earlier, when people were told to take 10 tablets, they would take just five. Now, they know they should complete the course, especially antibiotics, and that only then will it have an effect.” Customers are also tech savvy now, adds Anbuselvam. “They do their research on the Internet and come here and ask for healthcare and herbal products.”

There’s also a marked increase in the number of medicines (brands) available. “But only simple painkillers and cold/cough medicines can be sold without a prescription. For the scheduled medicines, we need a valid prescription,” he says.

The medical controller’s office conducts regular inspections of medical shops. “These days, it is mandatory for medical shops to have a floor area of 120 sq. ft., and it should be air-conditioned so that medicines are stored below 25 degree Celsius.” And this, he says, is besides the cold storage facilities for vaccines. “This shop is approximately 300 sq. ft.; but the one I plan to open in Vadapalani will be 600 sq. ft.”

Besides spending almost the entire day at his shop, Anbuselvam likes to watch Tamil movies and eat out. “I also like the beach, since I come from a place where there is none. Before I got married, I used to go to the beach every day!” But now, family commitments take him straight home when he shuts shop. Married to Pandimalar, he has two sons — Kavin (which means ‘handsome’), and Akhil (which means ‘sandal’) — both, naturally, Tamil names.

Anbuselvam speaks in chaste Tamil that is very pleasant on the ears. “This is nothing,” he laughs, “When I meet people from Madurai, I switch over to that dialect!” Even after 12 years in Chennai, Anbuselvam cherishes not just memories of Madurai, but also its dialect.

(A weekly column on men and women who make Chennai what it is)

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