Having a neighborhood stationery store means that more than 50% of your customers will be kids. School-going kids. Sometimes even just 4-year-olds. Shopping alone. Without any adults.
The arrangement comes with its own peculiar nuances and moments that tickle your funny bone.
For instance, the time when this 7-year-old kid unclenched his fist and produced a thousand rupee note. I was like - "Woah! How DO parents give a thousand rupee note to a less-than-three-feet-tall creature, who isn't even able to calculate the amount of change due to him?" And after he was done shopping, he started walking out of my shop with his purchases in one hand and the change (worth over 900 bucks, including coins) in the other. Such a lot of change in such a tiny hand! Ufff! Scary! I had to stop him and make him shove all the money into his pockets first.
Then there was this 3-year-old. He's been a visitor to my shop since I opened it, i.e. when he was still a thumb-sucking baby. He usually comes with his elder sister and mom or grandfather. While his sister does the shopping, he simply asks my Dad for a balloon (by pointing his chubby finger at the jar that contains balloons), and then busies himself with blowing it. The other day, he walked in by himself. (His grandpa was buying something from another shop in the market.) He is so short, I didn't even see him enter the shop. Nearly jumped out of my skin when he came and stood beside my table and said "balloon lena hai"! He then proudly placed a 5-rupee-coin on the counter, took one balloon, and started running out with a big grin on his face. Five rupees for one small balloon! So I called him back and tried to explain to him that he'll get 4 more balloons for that money. I don't think he understood that though, he was already too busy blowing the first one! Eventually, I just stuffed 4 more balloons inside his pockets and his grin just grew wider with happiness!
There are also those kids who spend almost all their pocket-money on stationery. (My favorites... naturally!) Sometimes they come with 100 rupees, sometimes with 500, and they have to spend it all. No taking back any change. And naturally, their shopping cart always exceeds the amount of cash they have. Then I'm supposed to do the math for them... help them remove items they can't afford that day!
Then there are all the "puzzles" that we've had to solve in the last 2.5 years.
For example, a "rule" is not a "ruler" here, but a "pencil". And "drawing" can mean any of the following:
- drawing notebook
- drawing sheets
- coloring book
- drawing box (pencil box)
- and once it even meant the photocopy of a drawing from one of the coloring books in my shop!
Once, there was this kid who wanted pins for "the machine used for covering notebooks". Dad and I were stumped. They'd invented a machine for covering notebooks! Wow! In our days, we had to do it all by hand! Turned out that he just wanted a box of stapler pins after all. And please don't ask me how we figured that one out finally!
Pins are, anyway, quite puzzling. There are stapler pins of course, but then there are also drawing pins, safety pins, gem clips and three different varieties of push pins. Kids usually just ask for "pins". After that, we play "20 questions".
We play "20 questions" a lot actually.
But some kids are smart.
Like the one who came in the morning today. He's probably 5 years old. Doesn't speak very clearly. Today, he asked for what sounded like "two apple waali copies". Dad asked him - "English copy?" He said no. I asked him - "four-line copy". He again said no. I asked him to come closer and repeat what he wanted. It still sounded like "apple waali copies". Eventually, he just walked around the counter, to the shelf with the school notebooks, and found it himself. English notebooks. "A for apple". Get it?
I know! And people think running a shop is easy!