This is a series created through immense admiration and inspiration taken from the HONY (Humans of NY). Living in a wonderfully vast city that Chennai is and easily bumping into or passing by atlas over 67 people on average in a day, its not very often that we stop to say a kind word or even glance a second time at most of these people. This is an attempt to know just one little thing about the people that i run into and bring it forth to you through images and their stories.
Mylapore – A vast area with a huge number of people, is obviously my first choice to start with.
“I am a Keralite. I have been in Mylapore , in this same shop for 40 years. My brothers opened this shop. I serve tea, biscuits, coffee, horlicks, boost and biscuits . I would say about sixty percent of my customers are regular customer, people from shops and temple nearby. A lot people who initially began coming to my tea shop as customers are now my friends. To run a good business, one must have a good attitude and must talk to people and market well. The term “Nair kadai Chai” ( Tea from Nair’s shop) is popular from before my times. It is because Nair’s had a special method of making their tea which was extremely delicious . We are trying to continue with the traditions *laughs*. ”
“This store has been around for about 60 years. My uncle, a retired military personnel ,owned this store initially . Later my dad bought this store from my uncle. But soon after that he got a job at a Fund company and he handed over the store to my younger brothers who were without employment at the time. Once they got placed well in Government jobs, i took over. I have another job at an Electrical and electronics company. This is my part-time work. I open this store at 5 am in the morning and I am here till 8am and then again in the evenings 6 pm to 9 pm. The reason why I still maintain this store and keep coming here day after day is because it keeps me active. It’s like an exercise, an active lifestyle; you could say.Everybody around me has been here a long while and i trust them , if I need to take a quick break even my customers would watch over the store . LIFE IS ABOUT TRUSTING. The time I get after the store and my job I like to sleep, it is very essential. I am happy always, its all in the mind. We need to keep our mind unburden-d .”
“Our shop as gained popularity Since we have flowers of good quality at affordable rates. We don’t over charge .Not just that we have a lot of different things here, all kinds of flowers and all pooja items. Ours is like a one stop shop with rates cheaper than the other stores without compromising on quality. Our priority is customer satisfaction. It has been six years since I started working here .Earlier this shop was at a different location for about 4 years before that. We also have a branch is Parry’s which is exclusively wholesale. The owner of your shop mingles with us like a friend and that is the reason that all of us who work here became friends and business runs well too. Some of the flowers come from the owner’s own farm, some from Salem , Yercaud, Arakonam and such places. All the flowers get sold everyday, if there is a few left over the end of the day we donate it to the temple. We work on shifts , there is very little free time. We would go to movies at night If a new movie is released. But i don’t watch movies anymore at all ; I am a Christian.”
“I have been driving an auto since 1980. I grew up here in Kuyilthottam. These days i only go on few rides, only for regular customers. I have two children , who have gotten married and settled in life. So i only drive to earn enough for my wife and i , for our daily needs. I don’t have a desire to earn too much. I just earn enough for things i may need and for shopping and other basic indulgences for my wife. I know a few nuns and priests at this church who call on me to go to places. So i ride for them regularly and get paid everyday on the spot. I don’t have any monthly paying customers though i drive some children to school regularly too. I have helped a few people who have been in accidents to take them to hospitals, i just drop them at the hospital and once they go in i leave to go on about my routine. I don’t believe in asking or waiting to be paid at such times. i strongly believe Customers are God . I stand by the saying “ANBE SIVAM” where there is love, trust and kindness, there is no room for hatred, squabbles, contempt and any other such ill feelings.”
“Business has been quite dull this year, last year was a lot better. Our selling price has been a lot lesser than our buying price. This large Ganesh idol was bought at Rs.150 each and i am having to sell it at Rs..120 each instead.The demonetisation, all the issue with the currency notes and not enough income is probably what is affecting the sales this year. Not just that there are way too many Ganesh idol pop up shops this year. Last year this street had just 4 such shops, this year its over 10. Most of the other shops if you see this year are selling painted Ganeshas. We don’t paint our Ganeshas , we are old school that way. A lot of people come looking for our shop just for that reason to get their Ganesha. Worshipping a plain clay Ganesha is a tradition. If we don’t set up our pop up shop a year for Ganesh Chaturthi, people come and ask us why we didn’t .”(1/2)
“Painting and adding accessories may make the idols look beautiful but its modernisation, we don’t believe in it. Though this year we have had to buy a few painted ones because of demand from some customers. We tried to get minimally painted ones. These clay Ganeshas dissolve in water easily. Painted ones would dissolve too but paint is chemical, disposing that in the sea water will only affect us. This time last year all our idols had been sold, this year seems to be slow. If we have idols left over and unsold we’d only have to dispose of them. It would only be a loss for us. Once the festivities end we go back to our routine lives. I am a house wife and my husband drives an auto”.(2/2)
“I buy these umbrellas and sell them. I have to give it finishing touches – attach the sticks to it, fix the flowers on top. get the rubber bands to hold the folding umbrella in place. I just have a few umbrellas so yes i will be able to sell them all before the end of the day. Once the festivities are done with I will go back to selling trinkets; small necklaces and other jewellery and accessories made of coloured beads. I am a nomad and I keep moving from one place to the next . I sell the trinkets here in Mylapore, Velachery and sometimes i even go a far as Mahabalipuram where a lot of foreigners buy the beads.”
“There is nothing new that i can tell you that hasn’t been published in The Hindu or The Times already. I have a bad throat as well so i don’t really feel much like talking . Here let me show you all the articles and you can go through them or even take their snapshots. I can tell you that the shop is over 85 years old. As far as i can remember from the time when i was young ;which was at least over a decade after the shop came into being, the first glass of Rose milk here was sold at 20 paisa. When i was old enough to come help here it was 30 paisa. I am in my 60’s now! ”
“I am 93 years old. I live nearby . I am originally from Kerala:Palakkad. I commute either by walk or auto. I have been coming here to this spot since 1966. People call me Mani Iyer, Iyer mama and such. I sell Dharbai(holy grass) and Poonal (sacred thread) . This spot is where the dharbai and poonal sell better than on the main roads, because this is just near the temple entry. I get to go to the temple as well everyday . I would be happy to see my photo in print and will keep it safe . I come here everyday 5am-12;30 pm and then again 3:30-8:30 pm, even on Sunday’s”.
“The shop has been around 60 years. We frame pictures of Gods and Goddesses’, photographs and even mirrors. In a business as our the concept of regular customer doesn’t exist. We get a lot different people come to us for their framing needs.During festival seasons we get a lot of framing orders and are very busy. We use real glass with synthetic frame. This store has been in the family for generations. My brothers were managing it earlier and now I am.”
“Aunty aunty will you take our photo?? Can we see the photo in the camera?”
This photo series , follows the story of some of the people that you meet while at Mylapore Market. Not very often do we stop to say “Thank You”, let alone as “How are you?”. This is my attempt to know people that we would otherwise miss noticing or talking to .
“I get a lot of customers, and i absolutely enjoy talking and mingling with them . Money isnt a priority, they may buy the smallest of thing but i believe in making them feel welcome such that they’d want to come back again to either buy stuff or even just to chit chat about everyday happenings. My biggest motivation and push to wake up every morning and come here and do this is -Myself . If i trip i have to pick myself up and dust myself off on my own, and if i am standing , i have to stand steady also on my own. If there is someone i call a friend , it is this Guru thats resting inside. He eats and sleeps here and he is my biggest help. He comes in the morning and helps me arrange all the things and keep them well in display for when customers arrive. I absolutely enjoy being photographed. Infact i welcome photographers who want to take my pictures.”
“I come here every morning , its a meeting point for all my other friends as well. We come here and go for any Vaitheegam ( ) requirements. People know that they will find us a group of brahmins here at this spot every day, and they come to us with any such vaitheegam requirement they may have, and we go for it. We do this the entire day. go to different places and come back here once done to further go again to another place. ”
“I am not educated, i dont know a lot of things, you ask me questions if i know the answers i most certainely will answer.We have to bring the Pumkins from different places, different towns, we sell painted pumpkins and regular ones too. Since the day i got married, i have been going to coimbatore, pondicherry, thiruvarur and such places and bringing the pumpkins . When i have to go on a break my wife takes over, i have a son who helps out but he cant speak , he doesnt say anything . There is only so much to life, when our children are suffering. Every day sales help us get by, on a good day i sell pumpkins for about rs400-500. its tough , we have to pay rent as well for the house we live in. Other sellers see us and also paint their pumpkins sometimes it affects business as customers have other shops also that they can pick from. Tomorrow we are not celebrating Ganesh chaturthi , my daughter in law passed away earlier this year.”
*** note – This thatha teared up when he was talking to me of his son . He kept saying “may god give you happiness child” absolutely heart broken to see someone suffer this way. A genuinely nice person. i plan on visiting him more often on my trip to mylapore everyday just to say hello and let him know that his family is in my thoughts and prayers. They sell coconuts / pumpkins on the platform and i plan to go to his store for my coconut and pumpkin needs. If you wish to help him out , you can reach me and i can direct you to where his shop is and you’d be able to meet him yourself too.***
“I have been working here for 2 months now, i sometimes make the tea and sometime i serve it to people . I have actually been working here for a long time, over two years. but due to an illness i had to take a long break and now i am back since two months ago. I have been here in Mylapore always. There are some customers who get angry or annoyed saying the “tea isnt good”. the only thing i say in return is i will make it better the next time. There are lots of customers that are good and kind, i believe they reflect our behaviour. If i am good and kind so are the customers. ”
“This shop has been in our family for 4 generations. we are the 4th generation . He opens the shops in the morning and then goes to his other work from here. we finish our home chores and come here. Our store is open from 5 am – 9 pm everyday .We are all related belonging to the same family. Business is best during festival seasons . Our regular customers keep coming back to us , because unlike other stores which increase or decrease the prices of flowers according to the customer requirement we dont do that. we have a fixed price . If we say rs. 20 , when the other stores sell for lesser, we still sell for rs.20 and when other stores increase the price we still remain fixed, even if we incur loss. Our customers come back to us for that reason . Our customers are important to us” (1/2)
“In the early 2000’s a photographer by the name Anandh had come to my other shop to take my picture. That photo of me was features in various magazines on all India level , as our shop being one of the landmarks of mylalpore and a must visit store too. This photo of mine is to this day displayed in a hotel in London besides A photo of the temple gopuram. I have had customers come looking for me to tell me that they saw my photo in that hotel in London. I always carry that photo he took with me. Could you take a picture of me holding this photo??”.(2/2)
“I come here to this area to read paper every morning. Its very dark in my home, if i have to sit and read at home, i need to get and pay for electricity, light , fans and what not. Why waste money on it , when the weather is as pleasant as it is now and i have the streets to find a spot and sit and read my paper in peace. Today i am sitting here tomorrow i may be in one of the other streets. But every morning at this time you’d find me somewhere around here just sitting and reading the daily paper.”