Natasha Pratap is an Art of Living teacher and one of those rare Mumbaikars who boasts the luxury of a garage. In the latter, though, she practices another kind of art: the art of giving.
Twice in the recent past, the petite woman’s Napean Sea Road carport has doubled up as a makeshift grey market for visitors, some of whom travelled from obscure places beyond Ambernath in Thane to haggle for Pratap’s hand-me-downs at a discounted price. A couple of them even startled her mother by fighting over a Christine handbag. “Everyone loves a bargain,” says Pratap, who held her third garage sale recently. Pratap’s belief in the spiritual theory of non-accumulation has led her to put up little-used designer handbags, embroidered saris and even bridal jewellery for sale.
For Pratap, garage sales (or the concept of non-accumulation if you will) are “not about getting rid of junk but about giving away things that you don’t use any more to the right people”. She remembers the gratitude on the face of a man who acquired her set of unused calligraphy pens for a song.
Few garage sales, however, are about spiritual and semi-altruistic fulfillment. Guv Arnold Schwarzzenegger, who furiously autographed old state cars and bikes for a recent online garage sale, sought to raise money for a broke California (he made a cool $1.5 million). Most Indians, who don’t have that kind of muscle or money – or even a garage for that matter – do it to raise money for themselves.
“It’s very lucrative,” says fashion journalist Mitali Parekh, whose garage sale in October this year helped increase her bank balance by “five figures”. Parekh sold many clothes she had avoided using, as they didn’t fit or had been bought only for professional purposes, boots which couldn’t possibly be worn in Mumbai and other accessories she’d purchased thinking “for when I go abroad” .
The prospect of landing a treasure has led to an upward spiral in the number of garage sales, a popular concept in the west. However, it’s not entirely easy back home. Although this is a country where people have been trading their used clothes for steel utensils for aeons, the reverse path (shelling out for used clothes) is still lined with mental roadblocks. Parekh shrugs this off as the “mentality of people above the age of 40 who are, in any case, not the target audience of garage sales”. “Simple things like ensuring that the clothes on display have been worn only once or better still, never, and retaining tags or labels attract the ultimate target audience,” she says. The latter being young collegians who are always looking for a bargain, are not inhibited by others’ usage and happy to purchase branded clothes for cheap.
Perhaps it’s to lure these young bountyhunters that even nightclubs in Mumbai and malls such as Delhi’s Select Citywalk mall are now assuming the temporary role of flea markets. Parekh, in fact, held her garage sale on the premises of Bandra’s Zenzi, where a few of the 50 participants were even seen bartering their stuff for a drink. A recent 26/11 charity sale at HQ, a watering hole in Colaba, saw a bunch of school kids in uniform arriving to browse. Such events invariably work better than even ‘happy hours’ by ensuring footfalls in the afternoon, an otherwise lean business period for pubs.
At Zenzi, around 250 people turned up in a matter of three hours for the afternoon garage sale in October. Most of them were frequenters of the pub, rummaging through the rare collection of books and other items. There were books on architecture, worth over 100 dollars, being sold at Rs 200 to Rs 300. “It was more of a vintage sale, something like Chor Bazaar of six years ago,” says general manager Emiliano Collazo , who is also planning to hold a charity sale very soon. Interestingly, Collazo compares events like the garage sale to art exhibitions, as “we don’t earn anything from them”.
The motives of Friendicoes, an animal rescue NGO which is organising a yard sale in Delhi’s Defence Colony club this Sunday, are pecuniary. “It costs around Rs 10,000 a week to take care of the 1,000 animals we have at our shelter and the yard sale is a good way of generating funds,” says Neha Yadav, a volunteer at the NGO who’s been busy collecting everything from cutlery to clothes this past month. “You’d be surprised at the things that come in – from BoneyM CDs to Brooke Shields posters. Someone even donated a washing machine,” says Yadav.
HQ’s community event, the charity sale, managed to rake in between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000. Promoter Gaurav Sethi says he was surprised to find even old people pouring into his Colaba pub for the day-long sale, which had everything from stuffed toys to hair straighteners. Some even came for lunch and made appointments to come back later, and there were requests for more such sales.
At the sale, many boutiques from Besos to Karma Kola, ensured their share in the nobility spotlight by contributing brand-new clothes. “We also sold a lot of books, candles and DVDs. As the clothes were in good condition, they were a great hit among college-goers,” says Pragati Luhadia, one of the participants. She remembers one “old uncle” in particular, who had come with hopes of buying something for himself, but ended up buying a lot of things for his wife instead. Among the things he picked up was a huge pink teddy bear. It might be a sale, but there’s plenty of room for sentiment.
Source: SHARMILA GANESAN-RAM TIMES NEWS NETWORK , TOI Crest 19 December 2009
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