The crowds are back in Gariahat and New Market and this is what many small street hawkers and the even smaller workforce, who provide them with items like knick-knacks and cloth bags, are basing themselves on this. their hopes.

Most of them believe that the gains as the Pujas approach will help them make ends meet at least over the next six months. Some took out loans to store their stalls because unlike in other years before the pandemic, they had no savings.

Even a few months ago, business was weak with virtually no customers, said a woman who has a stall in Gariahat.

But now they can at least see customers coming to the store, a smaller percentage are buying, but hopes are skyrocketing. They try to add more variety to their tray. And those few days before Puja will decide whether they can pay their children’s school fees, buy them new clothes and run the house.

Last year the sale of Durga Puja was dismal with few people willing to buy and the repercussions were huge.

Even about 10 days ago, their stores weren’t as crowded, although the weekends were better. But at nine days of Puja on Saturday, they had no time to speak.

“Almost all of last year’s inventory was unsold. But this year there is hope. I also borrowed 8,000 rupees and bought new shares, ”said Ashima Dey who sells saris, accessories and kurtis near Deshapriya Park.

Dey, who keeps saris between 350 and 1,000 rupees, once said that she sells around 10 to 15 sarees. “I also sell blouses and kurtis. Lots of stalls keep similar things, so if I don’t have the latest, why would customers come to my store, ”said the mother of two school-going girls.

During Puja, at least the customers come to the store.

Manika Sumitra Patra bites at her home in Tijala

“If the customers come, we can at least bargain and sell,” said one hawker, who sells trinkets at New Market.

Unlike other times of the year before Puja there is a tendency to spend and in many homes they try to keep some money aside for shopping.

The Calcutta Social Project, which provides interest-free loans as part of a project launched last year, has provided loans to around 25 hawkers in the past month.

“Almost everyone who came to see us was desperate to buy stocks. They told us that if they couldn’t sell now, they would lose a lot of income, ”said Arjun Dutta, president of Calcutta Social Project.

Even a store around the corner wants to restock with more fries and cold drinks, hoping that shopping and pandal hopping would increase their sales as well.

But with the pandemic still looming, there are risks few are willing to take.

For example, Manika Sumitra Patra sews salwar kurta sets, blouses and masks at nominal rates.

“I charge Rs 120 for a salwar set and Rs 150 for a blouse. If I charge more I might not have enough orders, at least now I have some, ”she said.

Patra’s husband who worked as an electrician in an office was fired last year. Now he doesn’t have a regular job, but his income depends on when he gets a call.

Patra also manufactures masks in bulk for Rs 8 to Rs 10 apiece and a supplier takes them from him.

“The fabric is provided and I have to pay for the elastic so I earn around Rs 4 to Rs 5 for each mask. In a yard of fabric, I can make 25 and the best is because it’s the holiday season, the demand is higher, so I try to make the most of it, ”he said. she declared.

Patra said if there was any money left over after setting aside necessities, she could buy new clothes for her seven-year-old daughter.