Sale Sale

You could not walk on the footpaths of Gariahat in those pre-Operation Sunshine days (Operation Sunshine being the controversial drive to clean Kolkata’s footpaths of illegal hawkers that became the first nail in the coffin for the CPM in Kolkata and marked the rise of the Big M) without being assailed by them.


“Sale boudi sale” [not to be translated as Bhabhis for sale but Bhabhi, we have a sale”] they would shout, a never-dying cacophony that seemed to emanate from the bowels of Hell. As you tried negotiating the narrow rope that was left of the sidewalk, you would bump into people standing and bargaining, their sweat mingling with yours, with directed howls of “Ashun dada ashun notun shirt wholesale” [Come Dada come new shirts at “wholesale” prices] aimed at your eardrums making you stop in your tracks, just in time for someone to stomp your right toe.

This tedium would sometimes be broken by comic relief provided by cries of “Boudi boudi blouse niye chole jacchen” [Bhabhi is running off with blouse] as a hook of some garment hanging from the rope strung across the footpath would catch the hair of some lady walking by or by a violent diversionย  provided by two shopkeepers, angry at being undercut by the other, hurling the most poetic of abuses. And no sooner had you crossed the zone of clothes-salesman would you be set upon by the “greeters” of illegal egg-roll shops that lined the footpaths. They would literally hold you by the arm and with avancular words of empathy (“Boy, you look tired after school, why don’t you have some chicken cho-men with extra sauce?” or “Going to tuition son? Ei Bhola whip up an egg roll double pronto for this gentleman right away”) entreating you to sample their wares while you tried to extricate yourself from their grasp, your senses nevertheless drawn to the chunks of meat of doubtful provenance sizzling like a seductress on the tawa .

You were not safe from salesmen even if you vowed never to go out on the streets. They would come a-knocking right when you were going to take your afternoon siesta or when you were bang in the midst of it, or when you were sitting down for lunch with your hand dripping with daal or just when you were going to put the first mugful of water on your back . No they would not go away easily, banging on the door and assaulting the bell. Nor would they be satisfied by “Barite keu nei” (No one is at home) as they would retort, somewhat logically,ย  “But you are there.” And some of them would not stop even there—for instance sellers of “products for leddies” would sometimes start doing their sales pitch from the other side of the door, in their loudest voice so that the neighbors giggled, till the “leddy” in concern would open the door out of embarrassment.

Salesmen. Sometimes the object of irritation, sometimes of anger, and sometimes of awe. It takes something special to be able to take the first step, to reach out to a stranger, suppressing ego in the face of possible rejection, often conveyed in a manner that is hardly gentlemanly. All this in order to make a sale.

My favorite salesmen however were those whom one encountered in the book fair (an old post I wrote about them) , authors and poets who would roam around, engage book-hunters in banter and then sell them their writings. They were my favorite because of the quiet dignity they bought to the joy of writing, radiating an earnestness and love of what they do in a way that would touch even the most cynical of us.

And now I find myself, in a very different context and using a very different medium and using words like “buzz creation” , in the ranks of those who sell their words, peddling my own book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss”ย  as I use my own little corner of the cyberfootpath to block your virtual surf path for a second, entreating you to do the needful.

Yes the book has gone on pre-order. Come this way please.Sale. Sale.

A feature on “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” in the Indian Express today (February 18, 2010)

80 thoughts on “Sale Sale

  1. I am the first to be 3rd

  2. Whenever I go home to Kolkata, I try to walk the footpaths of Gariahat to relive my college days. And, sample an egg-roll, and now that I can afford it, perhaps a double-egg-mutton roll as well. That’s not mutton, you say? Well, for a slice of Kolkata, I am willing to take a risk on a slice of meat “of doubtful provenance”, as you so eloquently described.

  3. Bangalore e kobey aasche guru?

  4. The book hits stores everywhere in India March 1st week.

  5. My favourite salesman is Steve Jobs.

  6. Pre-ordered your book GB. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am sure I will like it!

    Am I your first customer? ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Shubhs, Am not sure. The book went on sale yesterday and I suppose several people have already pre-ordered.

  8. @GB

    I couldn’t say no to your sales pitch!

    Can’t wait to get my hands on it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Thanks for buying. All those of you who have pre-ordered. Hope to give many such thanks regularly.

  10. I pre-ordered, but why does flipkart say:

    May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss by Arnab Ray, Greatbong (1 copy)
    — Processing Expected Delivery: By Apr 30, 2013


  11. @Chetan, Dont worry. By that time I will walk over to wherever you stay and hand deliver it.

  12. <snip>A feature on โ€œMay I Hebb Your Attention Plissโ€ in the Indian Express today (March 18, 2010)</snip>

    You do mean Feb 18, don’t you?
    Or did I just pass out for a month after watching My Name is Kantandwillnotevermakeadecentmovie (obviously not from the epiglottis)?

  13. Don Ayan de Marco February 18, 2010 — 5:59 am

    Well, I intend to buy the book on the very day when you are visiting Elgin Road. And salesman of the year would be Jaggu Dada for selling Musli Power so sincerely.

  14. how do i get your book here in vides, usa?

  15. “Boudi boudi blouse niye chole jacchen” – epic!!! Genius you are ๐Ÿ™‚
    I particularly dreaded the stretch where they sold bed sheets & linens, besides Select Stores…Oh God!

    Anyways, congratulations on your sure-to-be-awesome book! Just ordered one copy to be shipped to my mom’s address and another one for a friend. Now got to request somebody to bring my copy across the Atlantic :). Can’t wait!

    Here’s to a phenomenal success of the book!

  16. Good luck with the sales, Arnab. I’m sure it was a labour of love. Cheers.

  17. @Anonymous, No plans of shipping to US as of now. If Indiatimes stocks the book, then perhaps. Please look at for all details.

  18. GB,
    I preordered the book on Flipkart. But it says expected delivery date is Apr 30, 2013!!!!!!!!!!

    Order date: Feb 18, 2010, 12:32 PM
    Order Number: OD00218120520
    Total amount: Rs. 149
    Payment status: Payment Successful
    * May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss by Arnab Ray, Greatbong (1 copy)
    — Processing Expected Delivery: By Apr 30, 2013

    Btw, i got a 25% preorder discount! Yippeee…

  19. Hi GB,

    I pre-ordered your book today. I have been a silent reader of this blog for about a year now. All the best for your book release.



  20. Man how I hate calcutta for all that you’ve described above. Especially the Gariahat and Burra Bazaar area. No offense!

  21. Got the book for a friend of mine.
    I will have mine autographed by you!

    I ain’t reading your book until I have one autographed by you.

  22. will buy the book on 19th after the book reading part planned on 19th. will buy it even if it does not take place

  23. flipkart
    May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss(Paperback)
    by Arnab Ray (Author), GreatbongWrite a ReviewList
    Price: Rs 199
    Our Price: Rs. 149
    Discount: Rs. 50


    This is some sleazy sales technique of first hiking the price of the product and then giving a discount (as if doing a favour). While you make fun of salesguys on the roadsides (poor guys are trying to make a living by working hard) why don’t you guide your publisher or whomsover is selling your book to understand that the customers are not fools to not understand such sordid sales techniques. Anyways congrats on your first book and your insensitivity towards poor hawkers and salesguys!

  24. An androgynous geek in a pair of spectacles holding a pair of voodoo dolls……dude you should have shared with them some better picture of yours…we are reminded of Bulla’s hermaphrodite brother Chutiya (Shakthi Kapoor in Gunda)

  25. @ Shaitan-e-Sharif
    two things,
    1. cool name dude ๐Ÿ™‚
    2. flipkart is an online book store, and has discount for ALL books, mostly in the range of 25 to 30% .. (check it out yourself) they r able to give this discount by virtue of being an online store, saving significantly on infrastructure .. so its not a sleazy or sordid sales technique ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Boudi blouse niye chole jacchenโ€ [Bhabhi is running off with blouse] as a hook of some garment hanging from the rope strung across the footpath would catch the hair of some lady walking by …. – Absolutely brilliant ๐Ÿ˜€

  27. @Rahul
    Thanks for your info on how flipkart manages to give discounts…got your point! But still I would like to communicate my displeasure on people mocking hawkers, agarbatti salesguys, chaiwallahs and other people who are Around the Poverty Line..

  28. Here is the summary of your order (ID: OD00218155279) at

    Items Ordered:
    May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss by Arnab Ray, Greatbong (1 copy) – Expected time of delivery: Will be shipped when releases.

    Got its!! ~~YAY~~

  29. Gariahat and Golpark and salesmen and pujo shopping was an inherent part of growing up in South Kolkata … Even after all the shopping malls and retail outlets, Gariahat still holds its charm. I miss it the most whenever I am away from home ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now but this is my first post. This blog totally rocks!!
    Good Luck for your book …

  30. Ordered the book!

  31. I am not able to pre-order the book… every time I am trying to do so its hanging up

  32. You should take a look at the other titles suggested by Flipkart under your book. Hilarious!

  33. Bought the book

    Items Ordered:
    May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss by Arnab Ray, Greatbong (1 copy) – Expected time of delivery: Will be shipped when releases.

    Order Grand Total: Rs. 149

    Dhan Te Nan!!!!!!

    Promise me something that if I have the book by March 19th , you will autograph it!!!

  34. I am going to get one too :). All the best.

  35. OMG! Read the description of the book. You have taken on pompous non-resident Indians too!!

  36. Ordered one.. GB, is there any chance of you signing on the book?

    Bought it mainly because it could recapture the glory days of my growing up in those tentative times in a middle class family. I hope it is not too Calcutta centric!

    Thanks for writing the book GB.

  37. @Giribala, I have.

    @Poochandi, No I dont think it is. There is a bit of “sex in the city” from the perspective of a guy but I dont think that city-specific. If you can bring the book to Delhi or Kolkata event, then sure signing wont be a problem. I dont know of course which city you are at.

  38. You might have heard of Himalay Dawakhana sales audio
    Ek din lagao, ek foot lamba,
    Do din lagao do foot lamba
    teesrey din bijli ka khamba
    Chauthey din aap baithogey daftar mein aur ye kaam karega ghar pe.

  39. Today I completely got the meaning of May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss ๐Ÿ™‚ ..this is a book written by you.

  40. Clever! The beginning was almost picture perfect, I was transported to the Gariahati bajaar I had gone many years ago.

    You almost made me believe you are one of those who sympathises with these “salesmen”. But now I see who you really are! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Waiting for a copy of May I…whenever someone comes visiting me from India.

    Hope you sell well.

  41. Pree,

    No I honestly do. As I said I respect people now who can put ego on hold and come out and try to sell something knowing fully well the possibility of rudeness and rejection. Not that over-aggressive salesman dont make me irritated sometimes but I still do respect them. More so since I have now joined their ranks.

  42. Great sales pitch GB.

    Perspectives change once one step into the other’s shoes. Fight an election with the intention of winning and why politicians behave the way they do will begin to make sense. Well some ways at least.

  43. Ah! the memories of Gariahat. I grew up a stone’s throw from there and went to school nearby, so Gariahat – its roll stalls, the cassette stores on the boulevard, the book- rental stores are as part of my childhood and early adulthood as my parents and friends. My parents still live there so I get to visit it atleast once a year but most of its old charms – the book stores and the music stores , the L9 bus stand at Gol Park and most importantly the friends I grew up with – are long gone.

  44. GB, I guess book will than come in Crossword-Mumbai on 1st March, I will wait for 1 March.

  45. Hi,

    I am placing an order but there is no 25% discount for me:(

  46. Why Rohini? Why not you? Any problem?

  47. A typo: “Boudi bloudi blouse niye chole jacchenโ€ should be “boudi boudi,blouse niye…”

  48. February 19, 2010 — 7:37 am

    I will buy your book, from a book shop, since I still prefer the real sale! But not on sale, at original price….Your salesman skills are already working!!!

  49. Good old kolkata :)…interesting pitch…all the best for The Book!Will definitely make it to the Delhi event

  50. Ordered a book for the first time through the Internet.. It better be Kick-ass ๐Ÿ˜€

  51. @GB:

    ei purono post ta pore i realized what was it that got me hooked to your blog… somehow i miss gems like these now…

  52. Now that was one beautiful sales pitch. Buying the book once my exams are over.

  53. Hi Arnab, Is it possible for you to get some copies of the book and you can ship it to us here in USA ? Let me know and best of luck.. Thanks

  54. Hi Greatbong,

    I am a huge fan of SRK and was deeply hurt by ur KingKi comments on him. But still the first thing I do after hitting my desk is to check for any new post from u. Have ordered my copy ๐Ÿ™‚ and was hoping u had an event planned for Bangalore as well.

  55. Hey greatbong,

    On flipkart it reads : “having won the publicly voted Indibloggies “Blog of the Year” in 2006 and 2008″

    U won in 2009 as well na??

  56. I have won it twice. 2009 awards was for the year 2008.

  57. Kamal, I am investigating still the possibility of shipping to US from Indiaplaza. Technically it might be illegal for me to “sell” my books in that manner.

  58. and you look rather fair and handsome in the indian express photo .. so you are a closet shah rukh supporter after all

  59. wow flipkart’s gotten a lot of publicity from the legion of your fans .. good for ’em ..

  60. hmm this “comment is awaiting moderation” thingy does not show on firefox .. you should fix this problem (if you can)

  61. Preordered today. Now the anxiety starts to build !!

  62. Hi Arnabda,

    first time comment!am waiting for your Kolkata book event…wish it was on saturday tho…now i have to bunk ofc:-)…and the gariahat bazaar is still the same….n i love it this way……all the best for your book launch…….

  63. Hi Greatbong!

    How can i get it here in the UAE?

  64. Any chances i can get them in UAE?

  65. hi Greatbong..

    I have been an avid reader of your blog since 2005…its great to see how your reader base has grown exponentially and how you have been able to retain it too..all the best for your book…just preodered it from flipkart :)..

  66. Hey GB, finally you get to make money out of being funny. Good luck. Will order my copy now.

    @Alok: I usually order books to be delivered at my home in India and the parcel comes over with anybody who’s coming to Dubai !

  67. GB,

    Am definitely getting ths one.

    In recent times everyone from Falstaff, to Sidin, Chandrahas & Amit have peddled their wares on their blogs, but this is the best sales pitch i have come across. I also bought Falstaf’s Etudes coz he too promoted his book with the quiet dignity you refer too. Your greatest gift is your ability to marry scathing cynicism & humour with sensitivity and empathy. Many wishes for a great book launch. Those of us in mumbai will miss it sorely. Wish you can make it to the city and arrange for an interaction sometime.

  68. Thank you Driftwood. Appreciate that compliment a lot.

  69. caveat emptator! or some such latin gibberish….

    after reading, please post honest review. do not be swayed by promises of gazillion gb i-pods or solid gold i-tablets or whatever steve jobs is selling.

    i will buy from indiaplaza if the reviews are favourable. i am a sucker for that 30% discount.

  70. where can i buy it in US?

  71. Nandini, In a few days we will know whether Indiaplaza will deliver this in US or not. Hopefully.

  72. thanks…i have been dying to read your book for a long time now…your blog brings back memories of names from my growing up years…neeta puri, sonu walia, kimi katkar…hopefully we will read a lot more of them in your book

  73. I pre-ordered for the book and today i got it delivered. It has ur autograph on it. I have never got anything autographed, so urs is the first autograph i have ever received ๐Ÿ˜€

  74. Some Nostalgic Moments August 26, 2010 — 6:34 am

    purchased ur book here in Mumbai…..have read it completely and it made my sunday…the part about poltu,1-900 hottie were great…they made me laugh insanely…u also seem to have taken on the baton from Rashmi Bansal and doing ur bit to expose institute like IIPM and management gurus like Count Your Chicken Chaudhary……overall nice read and waiting desperately for ur next book…”Mine”…i guess that is what it is called

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