The Counter View

"I never expected to do or enjoy this, because I always hated domestic chores," says the 21- year-old salesgirl from Katni, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. Forty-five days into her job, she is surprised by her own efficiency, as also her increased confidence. "I was always a shy girl, but now that I interact with many customers through the day, I am much more confident," she says.

In Katni, Lodhi, the eldest of four siblings, was a teacher at a primary school, following the footsteps of her father, a government schoolteacher. After her marriage to a contractor six months ago, she moved to Mandideep, an industrial town 20 km off Bhopal. As Mandideep has very few schools and her husband works for long hours, Lodhi was getting bored at home. So, when a tenant of her in-laws informed her about an opening for a "customer sales associate" for Rs 5,500 a month, she jumped at the opportunity, even if it meant travelling by bus to and from Bhopal every day.

"I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Time just flies here,'' she says of her nine-and-ahalf- hour routine that requires her to report for work at 10 am. In the women-andkidswear section, she handles a stream of customers, most of them families shopping at leisure. Is she bothered by her lack of English-speaking skills when dealing with well-heeled customers? "I request them to speak in Hindi, and they all do," she says, describing "95 per cent of customers as 'understanding'.

'I DID NOT WANT TO JOIN MY FATHER'S BUSINESS'

UMESH JAGTAP I 28

PUNE

A REGULAR DAY for 28-year-old Umesh Jagtap begins at 10.30 am at the Croma store on Aundh Road, Pune. He changes into his regular livery and gets down to business selling high-end television sets to prospective customers and winds up only by 11.30 pm. "I have been here for the last eight months," he says.

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