That sale was one of a kind. It was plastered all over the front page of the Hindu for over a week which made it hard to not take note of it.
Sell what you don’t want, and we’ll pay you the current-MRP of that! Big Bazaar’s Big Sale!
I don’t know what kind of a “sale” that was; none has seen one like that.
People couldn’t believe their eyes. All that the Race Course walkers, the herbal soup/kadalai sellers, the daily visitors of Sharadambal kovil, all that anyone in the vicinity of Race Course could talk about were the Big Sale. Personally, it didn’t have much effect on me, my mom or my dad, we never spoke of it. The fever did not get to us. Yet.
The main reason Big Bazaar executed this brainwave of an idea was that they were opening a new branch of their outlet in Race Course and this was their best way promoting it, at least it seemed like it. The sale was on a Sunday. And Sundays are when I wake after ten a.m. have brunch, catch a KTV movie at noon and then a mudhal-muraiyaaga-super hit-thirai kaatchi on Sun TV at 6pm while having some idlis or dosas for dinner and hit the sack dreading Monday and its blues.
But that Sunday, I woke up to all sorts of cacophony and clamour, the clock on the wall facing my bed said 7:30 a.m. What on earth is everyone doing at such an hour, that too on a Sunday?
“Wake up, wake up, wake up Janani.”
Amma kept talking as an attempt to rouse me as she sifted through my cupboards and then the shelves and I was still on my bed groaning and yawning and trying to make small talk but my un-brushed mouth reeked that even my dad in the next room said “first brush your teeth then you can grace us with your wisdom.”
“Do you want these books anymore? This Famous Five, Nancy Drew indha picture books la.”, amma asked holding up a copy and dusting it simultaneously.
“Don’t even touch them amma. You know that I don’t give away my books, why are you even asking.” I replied, by then I was hanging awkwardly from the sides of the bed and looking at my mom upside down. It took me an eternity to get out of the bed, as always despite my mom’s ceaseless efforts of switching the fan off, pulling my blankets off, opening up the curtains and pulling me by my arms.
Nothing got me out of bed but this did; “Inga paaru I am going to tell just once more, to get up and get ready or else…” said my mom. I have been in this situation so many times in my life up to now but I still have no idea what comes after “or else…” I know better than to ask what comes after it.
“Okay, so now I’m ready. Where are you going?”
“What did you just ask?”
It was a second later that I realized that I blurted out the question that you are not even supposed to blurt out. It is considered a bad omen to ask a person where he is going, for those who don’t know. We take superstitions seriously, very seriously. So I modified the question a bit and asked, “From where will we be coming back?” soon enough to not get amma hot about it.
“What why? I thought we weren’t going to that thing.”
“We are now. Go take those stuff,” she said pointing to a huge pile of old cups and plates “and put them in those cartons and bring the gunny bags from the garage.” I saw dad and my brother taping up stacks of newspapers worth of at least six months’ quantity. “Akka, I dumped some of your old stuff in that box over there. Paathu sollu.” said my brother. It was fine I guess. I didn’t even bother to look. I was still groggy in my head and brain wasn’t completely ON. I needed coffee.
“Jananiiiii, where are those gunny bags???”
I took them to amma and asked “why are you giving away so much stuff? I like that blow-up chair. It’s there in the box,” I said pointing to a box.
“You will say this now and two days later, andha chair engeyo irukum nee engeyo irupa. It’s better we sell it now while this exchange sale thing is still there. It is only for today theriyuma? We better make use of it. Every in this neighbourhood is going to it. Why should we alone not go?”
Ohhhhhhhh. Okay, so this is why we are going.
“Keeping up with Zeitgeist, eh!”
In a matter of few minutes the car flooded with scarcely taped cartons and jute bags and gunny sacks. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if passersby mistook us for a family that was shifting places. In a while, we reached BB. To this day, I’ve never seen Big Bazaar as crowded as that day. The whole population of Race Course was there, with their scraps of every kind you could think of; clothes, electronics, barely broken decors, furniture etcetera, etcetera. People brought old dabba TVs and refrigerators on autos and all. So much for Race Course being posh and rich. And man, how much trash did people even have!!
Moreover, everyone who wanted swap this garbage for money had to buy a form, fill out the details and there was a kilometre wide queue for that. While dad looked into that, we unloaded the stuff from dicky, from under our seats, from on our laps and had a cup of tea and samosa each as we watched our neighbours unload even more than ours from their car. The place had never been livelier. People were about to get rid of all the junk and get money in return!!!! Yaaaay! Uncles and Aunties have never been happier.
“do you think they’d exchange gold and all? I’ve been wanting to exchange this ring for a while…Big Bazaar la gold iruka enna?”
“paaah, finally giving away these thousand Vikatans for some good rate. That paper-kaaran said he’ll not accept more than 5 rupees per copy, Big Bazaar will get for at least 15 rupees, I know. Enna oru deal!”
“Big Bazaar na Big Bazaar dhaan ya!”
“With the return money, apdiye we can buy provisions here itself and go. Semma idea no?” said one uncle and his aunty rolled her eyes beneath the soda-buddi and replied “first exchange this and come, then we’ll see about that. Kumaran Thangamaligai la some offer, I want to buy one ring, maybe we can buy that. That Kamala bought one last week. Hmph.”
It was more than an hour, the new BB food court was bustling as it was time for breakfast. Even though most of them who’d come to BB for this offer, lived in the proximity of less than a kilometre, they ate here despite the extravagant pricing. One vadai for 55 bucks.
Convert 55 rupees to dollars and buy a vadai in New York, it wouldn’t cost as much as BB. But no one wanted to lose their spot in the queue, so it was a good day for BB food court.
Few minutes into “exchanging”, there was a commotion. An Iyer uncle was furious and raging. After all, he was the first one line. Apparently, he’d come in at 6am to exchange his BPL black and white television set and his wire-knit 60s lounge chair with a gunny sack of not such prominent items. Iyer uncle was given a pink sheet of low-quality paper and a bunch of light-blue sheets. He read it and threw up his hands in frustration, walked towards the counter and called “I want to see the manager!” A person wearing a black BB t-shirt and a BB cap led that uncle to the side of the building and pointed something to him.
“Janani, go see what is there and come.”
I guess the curiosity was mutual, apart from all holding places in the queue, the crowded headed towards that side of the building where hung a huge billboard with the terms and conditions in Time New Roman size 48.
*IN EXCHANGE FOR YOUR VALUED GOODS, YOU WILL BE PROVIDED WITH COUPONS THAT CAN BE EXCHANGED FOR YOUR PURCHASE EVERYTIME YOU BUY FOR MORE THAN 1000/- ONLY AT BIG BAZAAR!
$$ ONCE IN A LIFETIME DEAL $$
*offer valid for a year
Being the dumb, 14-year old I was. I ran down to my parents and said, “I think you have to buy something for 1000/- today and only then they’d take our stuff. And apparently, they’ll give us coupons also aama.” My dad looked ridiculed like what is this girl even saying. He made me stand in the line with amma and went to check it for himself. On returning, he said “which part of that billboard text didn’t you understand, Janani?” and my parents looked at me like they wanted a refund for all the money spent on my education.
Amma: So what is even written over there?
Dad: They’ll give us coupons now it seems for all our stuff. Then with those coupons, we can buy things from BB only when we’ve already bought for 1000 rupees.
Amma: I knew something was fishy. How will they give money for a broken TV, button-less radio, torn t-shirts and all! We should’ve known. What shall we do now?
Dad: What else. Exchange for coupons only. I can’t unpack all this back at home once again.
Basically, every other family that ransacked their garbage and loaded stuff that had even the slightest crack came to the same conclusion. The 55 rupees vadai didn’t leave us with enough energy to even tolerate the then baking sun let alone reset-up the trash once again. Most people stayed back, with their what-do-with-the-exchange-money-plans turned to tacky light-blue coupons of different denominations. Eventually, our turn came, dad was quetching his strong disapproval to the employees who could do nothing but say you can always use the coupons, sir. Furthermore, we had already posted the terms and conditions, sir.
Like hell you did. Where? At a dark alley towards the side of your building. You should’ve published this on the Hindu front-page, we’d have at least got a good Sunday morning sleep.
My brother, amma and I were done shifting the junk which they weighed duly and gave us a quite hefty sheaf of coupons for 20,000 rupees.
Thank you for participating in this bonanza exchange offer, sir. Can you give us your mobile number so we can send you SMS’ on upcoming offers in the future? The employee said.
And I don’t think my family and I have ever glared at anyone that furiously and the car ride back home was expectedly silent. We stepped in after a weird morning to a spic-and-span dwelling. “Well, at the house is clean and ridden of the piled rubbish.” said amma. “At the cost of 20,000 bucks”, replied dad.
Among the junk-pile that BB confiscated was my phone. It came free with BSNL broadband connection. It was a beaten-up one with silver buttons that clicked and clacked so bloody loudly. I could’ve recorded a tune out of it every time I typed a sentence but it had its own cons. Past sleep time, if I texted or typed out something on the phone, my mom in the next room would know.
“Keep the phone down and sleep, Janani.”
And there went my first phone for a 100 rupees blue coupon that we eventually substituted for the original Monopoly currency that we misplaced.