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The Cosmetic Seller

Every so often the cosmetic seller comes down our road, pushing his barrow along.  I always come out if I see him coming.  He brings a bit of excitement into a housewife's life.

His wares are cheaper than in the market.  He sells items of great importance in an Indian wife's life.  He sells little boxes of sindoor - that's the red colour that Hindu married women wear in the hair parting.  Sindoor comes in three colours.  Orange, maroon and bright red.  According to him, the village women go for the bright red colour whereas their city sisters prefer the more sober maroon.  Orange sindoor (or is it saffron colour?) is preferred by women from the state of Bihar, another state in north India.  Orange sindoor is often seen around, but not very often.  To apply sindoor, we dip something like a pen or a stick into the powder and carefully apply it on the hair parting.  Nowadays, the cosmetic seller brings a lipstick type sindoor stick, which is very useful and more tidy.  Personally, I think the powder looks better.

He also sells glass bangles.  Glass bangles are of great importance in many north Indian communities.  They are worn by married women only and not by widows.  They come in a variety of colours.  I prefer maroon myself.  I've found maroon to be like black - it goes with everything.  Plain coloured glass bangles are available for daily wear and fancier ones - decorated with glitter and gold paint - are available for special occasions like festivals and weddings.

Of course he sells cheap brands of lipstick and other everyday cosmetics.  I don't buy those from him.  If I have to buy such items I can purchase the better quality brands for the market.  But for my sindoor and bangles I always go to him.

He also sells bindis - the 'dot in the forehead' worn by Hindu women.  My preferred colour is always maroon.  When I was newly married I loved buying bindis in various shapes and colours - I had time to work on my 'look' then, of course.  Looking after four children has robbed me of that particular pastime.  I don't like the huge, oversized bindis preferred by some women.  They look great on some, but not on me.  I stick to a smaller size and prefer the more expensive brand, fortunately always available with him.

He sells nice imitation jewellery too - like payals (anklets) and 'maang bindis' (a chain worn in the hair parting).  I am not a fan of imitation jewellery but I like the mangalsutras he sells.  The 'mangalsutra' is a necklace of black and gold beads worn by married women.  In south India it is of great importance although in the north it is more of a fashion.  He sells ridiculously cheap imitation mangalsutras with interesting pendants on them.  Sometimes the beads are red instead of black.

When he comes around the women of all the different houses around come out and check out his merchandise and we have a bit of fun comparing prices and finding out if something suits us or not.

He hasn't been around for a while.  I think his visit is due again soon!

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