They enter the shop warily, as if intimidated by the glow of the gold and diamonds shining from the showcases. Quite obviously, they are not the jewelry-buying types. The shop owner asks what they want and one of them takes the lead in requesting to be shown a small idol of Ganesha made of Panchaloha. The owner directs his assistant to bring out a few samples which are displayed to the group.
Each of the three men pick up one or the other idol, look at it this way and that and swing it in their hand to feel its weight. One of the men is middle-aged and his appearance and mannerisms make him appear a little slow on the uptake. The other two are elderly men – perhaps his dad and uncle – and seem to be indulgent of their younger companion. The shop owner and assistant watch them alertly, careful to keep track of who is handling which idol and to make sure no piece disappears.
After about 15 minutes of looking at around 8 different idols, enquiring about their price time and again, and exchanging lengthy opinions over each of those, the men still haven’t made up their mind. The shop owner is getting impatient although there are no other customers in the shop except the one writing this piece.
Then, the middle-aged man asks for the price of two pieces he has narrowed down on. With a condescending look on his face, the shop owner again quotes the price of one as Rs. 1000/- and the other as Rs. 1400/- One of the elderly men asks the younger guy if he has enough to pay for the idol and offers to help out if there is a shortage. The younger man says he will manage and go to the ATM nearby if necessary.
The shop owner watches these discussions impatiently. Then, in a tone that the well-heeled reserve for those hard up, he suggests they purchase the less expensive one because it’s almost the same size as the other, with the only difference being in the weight.
Almost as if that statement helped him decide, the younger man, in a firm voice, says he has decided to go with the one costing Rs. 1400/- As the shop owner is packing it up, he asks if they will be using it for the pooja on Ganesh Chathurthi. The guy looks straight at him and says, “Yes, it is our custom that first, we will do pooja for it and then, give it in daan (donation) to someone.”
Panchloha Ganesha idol cost: Rs. 1400/-
The look on the shop owner’s face: Priceless