Friday, September 08, 2006

Musings from a Pilgrimage - II

This is a continuation of a post that I wrote several weeks back. Read the first part here for the context.

The yatra continues. First signs of tiredness visible and the prospects ahead look scary. An arduous return journey of 25+ km on foot of which we might have covered maybe 20% by now.

But then the hill is beautiful, view awesome and spirits high. We go on and so does my musings.

A crash course in effective selling
"Identify a need, have a prouct to satisfy the need and then sell patiently but persistently". Thats what we learnt at the B-School. You learn this free on a pilgrimage to "Shikharji" from the Doliwalas. When starting for the Yatra we had booked one "doli" (More about Dolis and Doliwalas in my earlier post) and one person to carry my kid. My parents had assured me that they would cover the entire distance on foot. They were angry when I booked another person for the kid as they thought the lone doliwala was to take care of the kid.

As we started with the yatra however, another couple of doliwals joined us on the journey - just like that. We tried to ignore them, my dad anticipating what they wanted, even warned them that they might not get anything from us. They agreed but continued to give company.

Every time mom and/or dad stopped for a breath and they will softly mutter "Baith Jaiye Saheb - Thoda Aaram Hoga" (Please sit in the Doli, you will feel better). Mom first brushes them aside bravely. But as the "Yatra" progresses and she develops signs of tiring - she becomes more patient of them - muttering "baba, agar jaroorat hogi to bata denge - magar hamare bharose mat raho."(we shall tell you if needed, but don't depend on us). The first signs of tiring shown about three kms from the start.

They go on - but look at the face of my dad now. With the strength of a man knocking at the retiring age and the courage of a man who never needed any such support in the past, coming to terms with the fact that he might have grown old after all. The same hills that he conquered easily 25 years ago when they were more daunting - looked close but out of reach. He goes on - none the less.

And then the last nail in the coffin, a particularly steep strectch which also brings some stairs to climb and around 9:00 am in the morning - sun glows with its glorious bright rays - the first time since we started. We would call the weather pleasent had we not been sweating already because of the walk and now the heat was both pulpable and sapping.

I, my wife and my sister ensure that one of us is always beside each of my parents. We start suggesting gently - a saviour - the doliwalas. They also smelled the business and more importantly their real customer. They must have realised that the people who sit in the 'doli' eventually are not the ones who make the purchase decision. (How many times in our case studies at the B-School would this fact face us - I am not sure all of us remember that). So, they now mutter under my breath - "Babuji thak gaye hai. Unhe baitha dijiye - aaram ho jayega" (Your father is tired. Ask him to sit in the doli - he will feel better). I am also more tolerant of them now - realising fully well that we might need them soon enough. In fact, I signaled to my wife and she immediately discussed the possible charges in case they are needed.

Everything is ready - they do not haggle much on the price - they easily accept my offer of Rs. 100 to carry my dad to the nearest peak. So finally after travelling close to 7 kms my parents give in and both sat on different dolis and my mom as if to share the guilt takes along her grandson in the doli.

They took us to the nearest peak where the first of the temples (they are called "toonk"). Thats half way through - approx. 8 kms from the starting point. Now to visit as many toonk as is possible we were supposed to walk another 7 odd kms in various directions and then finally the descent back which will complete the near 27 kms journey. The doliwalas has been excellent marketers and they have won their trophy. They are almost confident that we will book them for the rest of the journey as well and I am not in a position to bet my money to prove them wrong.

Sure enough after our immediate stop I talk to them about the rest of the jorney. Once again without much negotiations I offer a rational model - half the price of regular and they do not take any chances lest I change my mind. Its smooth - perfect selling, even if driven by compulsions of roji- roti (daily bread).

Well my musings are not over but I am taking too much time to put them up - so I will write them one at a time. Wait for the next in the series.