Madame Jasveer and a salesman
Twelve years ago, a young salesman was walking the streets of Dillibazar in Kathmandu. That man was in his early twenties, often wearing a cheap tie and carrying a bulky side bag filled with books. In the heat and dust of Kathmandu, the man looked exhausted. That man was me.
Yes, I used to work as a salesman in the streets of Kathmandu (City of Tempers). Selling books like Britannica Encyclopaedias and Oxford Dictionaries to urban office workers, I entered uninvited into their claustrophobic offices in busy afternoons, trying to sell books to them. It was a risky business. Typically these office workers would be in a very bad mood—perhaps due to conflict between their high ambitions and low success.
These small private company office workers were always, in my observation, in a perpetual bad mood. A young salesman who unluckily entered their office uninvited during such a mood would definitely get a hefty dose of yelling and insults. Our profession emphasised that we should politely retreat in such situations by saying “Thank you sir, Have a nice day!” Complete with a fake smile.
Of course the job was very stressful. To carry a dozen heavy encyclopaedias on the shoulder. To walk the busy streets of Kathmandu all day long, with its dusty roads and hot tempered office workers. Those dusty roads are a lot cleaner nowadays thanks to imported Chinese vacuum-cleaning vehicles. But those overambitious, hot-tempered office workers are still everywhere. Always ready to explode like a bomb.
I encountered one such explosive lady one afternoon in Dillibazar 12 years ago. She was a dynamite! I entered her private office on the third floor of a sleek building. A cute receptionist welcomed me with a curious smile.
“Namaste sir, Madame Jasveer has been expecting you. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Would you like to have a cup of tea?”
Obviously I was taken aback by this rather generous hospitality being shown to an uninvited salesman who normally gets indifference everywhere or insults from everyone. After a few minutes a beautiful woman appeared to greet me. Perhaps in her mid-30s, the first thing I noticed about the lady was her north Indian Punjabi accent. The second thing that I noticed was the latest expensive Blackberry smartphone shining in her hand. I guessed she was the managing director of this new private company.
Judging by a Stanford University certificate adorning the office wall, I guessed that this elegantly dressed lady had freshly returned to Nepal from the States with high ambitions.
Madame Jasveer gave me a confident handshake. Then without wasting a minute, she began talking business.
“We must merge our business together sir; I offer you up to 50 percent share in the new company plus Rs 50,000 monthly salary.”
While she was saying all this, I just kept staring at the sleek Blackberry in her flawless hand. It was the same model that I had seen in the CAN Infotech stall in Bhrikutimandap exhibition a week before. Back in those days, its superbly stylish design hit our big town, big time. I wanted to purchase one myself. Alas! The price tag was way out of the budget of this book salesman having a hard time. “Fat chance, sales boy!” I sarcastically told myself back then.
Madame Jasveer’s smart phone rang. She politely said “Excuse me,” and received the call. Apparently from her little daughter.
“Munni, I am in a meeting right now, mumma will call you back afterwards. Ok, Bitiya Bye!”
Then she resumed the business conversation with me. Blame it on my naivety, but I just couldn’t explain to this Punjabi lady that there must have been some kind of obvious misunderstanding. Apparently she had mistaken me for somebody else. Besides, Madame Jasveer was speaking in such a commanding confidence; this timid salesman couldn’t interrupt her. Or maybe I was just too much distracted by that Blackberry or the beauty of the lady who was holding it.
Just as I was to speak up, the tea arrived in the office. The receptionist also had purchased some delicious fruit cakes from the nearby bakery.
“Please help yourself to some refreshments, sir.” Both ladies pampered me with generous hospitality. Hungry that I was, I swallowed my pride and ate the unexpected snacks, saying nothing but “Thank you madame”
Life is funny. Sometimes God creates such situations which can only be described as a practical joke. Just as I was munching on the fruit cakes, somebody appeared at the door. A suited man carrying a leather briefcase.
“Sorry that I am late for meeting Madame Jasveer. Traffic jams in this city are getting worse everyday, you know.” Needless to say, this suited man was the person who was supposed to be eating the fruit cake that I was eating. Busted!
Madame Jasveer and the sweet receptionist stared at me in utter confusion. After a brief moment of uncomfortable silence, I finally told them that I am just a salesman, who had come to sell books. I took out a few samples of encyclopaedias and casually showed it to her.
“You bloody salesmen! You people are parasites! How dare you walk into my office uninvited like this? Do you think this is a Ratnapark public toilet?”
Madame Jasveer was glaring at me with scornful fury. Her voice was violent with anger at my perceived dishonesty. Even her cute receptionist girl, barely in her late teens, was visibly shocked to see the rage in her Madame’s eyes. The same lady who was so politely offering me tea and fruitcakes a few minutes earlier, was now about to explode like a bomb.
“Get out!” Madame Jasveer roared at me. I maintained my cool dignity. Quietly picking up the books which the furious lady had thrown on the floor, I politely apologised to her for the unintended misunderstanding, and left. Deeply humiliated.
That was the last day of my life as a salesman. Enough was enough. Neither was there much money, nor any respect in that profession. Twelve years later, now I am employed in a reputed school as a teacher. A much more respectable profession. But, that incident in Dillibazar remains an ugly scar in my memory. I try to console myself by reading a famous piece of advice from Buddha—“Forget and forgive the past.”