If she were young, the peculiar joint of her lips would make a perfect pout. If she had used any anti-ageing cream, those wrinkles running down her chin wouldn’t have been visible. They look like deep streams flowing from her jaw bone to the upper and lower lip respectively. With piercing done in both the nostrils, if the nose pins had diamonds, it would have added some glow to her otherwise tanned dull skin.
But her hair seems fine. With shades of shiny golden, gray and black, it leaves one wondering of the hair colour she used. Those tinges of golden gray flicks give a slight introduction of who Maramma is. They are like waves of an ocean, originating with a heavy bounce near the forehead and fall flat as they find their way.
Spitting the pan which she chews all day long, Maramma admits her happiness with life. “I’ve not been in a better environment. Whatever Gadyashala and Sathyamangalam have offered is the only luxury I’ve lived in”, she claims while selling tomatoes to a young woman of Gadyashala village in Erode district of Tamil Nadu.
Maramma, a vegetables and fruit seller, comes all the way from the town of Sathyamangalam to the tiny village of Gadhyashala to make a living every day.
She’s fond of jewellery it seems. She wears round earrings containing six shiny stones each and one stone in the centre, resembling a solitaire. It looks as if they were made just for her loose skinned earlobes. She has a lot of dark spots on her face, some moles, others perhaps she developed over time.
“I’ve been doing this for the past 30 years now. I come in the morning at 11.30 am and close by 3.30pm. After staying here overnight, I go back to Sathyamangalam next day at 8.30 am”, she says.
Her eyes seem perfect. They have the inquisitives like that of a fish. They are small and almond shaped, tied with perfection to the place they stood in. Her blue eyeballs revealed thoughts, thoughts that were too deep to be understood. Amongst the oceanic blueness of her eyes, one can witness the tiredness of 73 years of life that she has seen.
“I lost my husband 36 years ago”, says Maramma, with a slight squeeze of her eyes as she gets reminded of the past. She thinks alcoholism to be one of the reasons for his death. “My sons work as agricultural labourers. They do not live with me anymore”, she added.
Like river tributaries, more lines originate from the corner of her eyes and run all over her face. Even though her eye lashes are few yet they nowhere hamper the beauty hidden in those eyes
She is the only vegetable vendor in the entire village. People either come to her or have to travel to the far away town of Sathyamangalam.
“The prices are a bit high. She would increase by one or two rupees sometimes. But we still buy from her since it’s convenient. The town is very far and there are no vendors nearby”, says Sundari while purchasing dry fish from Maramma.
“About five to six years back, the margin was Rs 100 but now it hardly comes down to Rs 50. The price rise has affected my business but I can’t leave it.” The decrease in the margin affects small vendors like her gravely.
The frequent animal attacks destroy the crops and is one of the main reasons for the rise in prices according to her rainfall because of which crops got destroyed. Also, the presence of animals leads to a lot of crop damage. That is why the prices rise so easily”, she added.
It’s a two hour journey on a bus from Gadhyashala to Sathyamangalam which this 73 year old woman carries out every alternative day. The road to the village is not tarred and thus it’s a very tiring journey. “I have frequent back aches and body aches. The doctor has strictly advised me not to travel so much. But if I don’t, who’ll fetch me food?” says Maramma, wondering what the next customer would demand.
“I hardly eat white rice. I have a lot of porridge. That is why I’m fit.”
The irregularity of bus service in Gadhyashala affects a lot of people and not just Maramma. The kattcha roads make it a tough and a bumpy ride. There are villagers who have requested for frequent bus service to start in this village but they claim to no action being taken for the same.
“I’ve got used to it now”, says Maramma, packing her stuff as it’s time to collect money from the people who purchased from her today.
This was an example of another villager getting used to what is being offered to them. These people are happy not because they are getting the best of opportunities and lifestyle, they are happy because they have not seen anything better. When a 73-year-old woman carries out a 2-hour bus ride on a kattcha road to make a profit of Rs 50, one might be able to imagine what her ‘happiness’ and ‘satisfaction’ is.
The peculiarity of Maramma’s business is that she goes to every purchaser’s household at the end of the day and collects the amount that they need to pay. When asked if she sometimes forgets to collect her money, she replied smilingly, “Thirty years service. I remember everything”.