Twenty-eight-year old Noufil Sait wonders if I am doing an article on the Kerala High Court judgement that mandates the removal of all roadside encroachments when I say I am from The Hindu .
Before I can answer his query he goes on to say, “We have to follow what the court says. But I am confident that the government will not threaten our livelihoods with such a dictate. I am sure they will help set up a space for us local vendors selling wares by the pavement somewhere.”
Noufil has been selling plastic table clothes of different sizes, colours and patterns, for the past one year. “I was selling shoes, bags, knick knacks… before that. I like changing the wares I sell as work becomes less monotonous. Besides, there are only two or three of us selling plastic table clothes on this street right now, so the competition is not too steep. Not that I am worried though, I try to ensure that my products are of better quality. I get them from a local supplier who sources it from Mumbai,” says the vendor who travels to Chala daily from Poonthura to sell his goods.
“My father was a pavement vendor at Chala too. He used to sell towels and I would assist him. He is not keeping too well now, so I have taken over.”
Seeing me check out the table clothes, Noufil says: “The transparent ones are the fast moving ones. Most of these table clothes are from China. I do sell table clothes made out of rexin, which are made in Kerala and are expensive.”
Ask him, if the shopkeepers get annoyed when he sets up shop in front of their store and he replies: “No. They know me and I try to sell my wares in such a way that I do not block their store. Their bikes parked out front are my hangers and tables in which I display my goods.”
His customers, he says are usually “impulse buyers. They are customers who do not come with the aim of shopping for a table cloth; they see the display, like one and buy it.”
Noufil’s day starts at 10 a.m. and ends at around 8.30 p.m. He usually takes Sundays off to spend time with his family and friends. “I like relaxing by the beach with my wife, Safna.”
So, what next? “Well, I hope to save enough money and start a small stall of my own one day.”
(A weekly column on men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)
I try to ensure that my products are of better quality