“Pathrooba, pathrooba…”, Sajal Ghosh shouts in his Bengali accent. He was trying to sell ‘I love India' headbands priced at Rs.10 to cricket fans outside the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, ahead of the India-New Zealand practice match on Wednesday.
It's going to be a hectic season for those like him, who travel from one city to another, selling cricket paraphernalia near the stadiums during the World Cup. A good number of hawkers, who have virtually turned the Chepauk premises into a marketplace, say they have been doing this for years.
With small units in different States producing items such as head bands, wrist bands, flags, caps, pipes and flutes, these enterprising men source them in bulk and sell them to cricket fans.
Mr. Ghosh, who is from Kolkata, has booked a room in Triplicane for a few days. Having picked up “konjam konjam Tamil”, he can be seen negotiating deals with local customers with surprising ease.
Most of the hawkers make around Rs.1,000 per day, of which over Rs.100 goes towards room rent and food. Some of the earnings get spent on train tickets.
Another hawker, Amit Kumar of Uttar Pradesh, is himself an ardent fan of cricket. “Once, Yuvraj Singh saw me wave at him and called me closer to say hello,” he recalls with pride.
While he brought the flags and bands from home, he also bought some paints locally for those who like flaunting the tricolour on their cheeks or forehead. “I've been into this for over 10 years now. We go along with the Indian team from one city to another,” he says as he prepares for the season ahead.
“I will take a short break and go home before heading to Bangalore next,” says Mr. Ghosh, who is a huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar.
A keen follower of the game, he thinks Dhoni's leadership has increased India's chances of clinching the Cup. “The entire team is in very good form and the World Cup is being held in India after such a long time. I am sure it's ours this time,” he says.
There are also hawkers like Anil Kumar who came to Chennai from Bihar two years ago. He sells flutes and pipes during matches. Living near the Central Railway Station, he and his friend take up small-time jobs when it is not cricket season.
The space around the stadium is a business hub for some home-grown hawkers too. R. Srinivasan, was selling neatly sliced water melons. “I used to set up shop inside the stadium those days. It was the time my thalaivar was the CM,” he says, quickly showing off a tattoo of former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran on his hand.
The fruit seller did not seem to care much for cricket stars. All that he was keen on talking about was cricket during his “thalaivar's” time. “I have even seen him [MGR] inside the stadium. He would sit stylishly, resting his chin on his arms like this,” he demonstrates.
After volunteering his prediction for the Assembly elections, he says “I hope I manage some good business this cricket season. I used to sell this thin slice for 25 paise in those days. Now, it is five rupees. Everything depends on who comes to power,” he says returning determinedly to his pet topic.
On who he thought would win the World Cup this time, he hurriedly responds: “AIADMK, who else!”