My Hunt For A 100 Cotton Totes

Published on 17 Jul 2016 . 4 min read


We have a Haiku Utsav coming up in Pune. We met, allocated responsibilities.

I get to organize the goodie bags.

Cotton or khadi, nothing else. We are all clear about that. And in a nice ecru or natural khadi shade. But the wholesale dealer who hollers into his phone or checks the ‘requirement’ on the market portal might just scratch his head at that.  Hence, it’s ‘off white/khadi colour’. I ignore the twinge each time I use the word ‘colour’ with a colour – like ‘red colour’. It’s redundant. But then in Hindi, we say ‘safed rang ki bag’. Hence, ‘khadi-coloured bag’.

First, I am overwhelmed by the sheer classification of the bags. There are tote bags, gift bags, kids’ bags, trade-fair bags, promotional bags, shopping bags, sacks. Then there’s valise, portmanteau and overnighter (ok, now I’m kidding).

And the sizes! As small as a gentleman’s kerchief or large and sturdy enough to throw in mobiles, KindleTM and spectacle cases, a notebook, pen and purse. And in pretty pinks, vibrant reds, sunshine yellows--colours galore--but we are sure we want ecru/natural.

There’s a range of materials as well. Popular on Indian sites is jute, cotton, and cotton canvas, which is apparently a thin sort of canvas. The dealers showcased on Amazon do have felt, leather, silk, satin and velvet as well. There are the real economic synthetic bags too. This is just FYI, we were pretty much zeroed in on cotton/canvas/cotton canvas.

What is amazing is how much of an industry it is. The shape, size, material of your choice, with or without logo. We chose ‘without logo’. We plan to screenprint our own pretty InHaiku logo stencil. Cheaper. And more fun, painting over the stencil.

I call a dealer in Kolkata, somehow associating Kolkata with the cheap cotton products at Goriahaat. I seem to have interrupted the bhadralok’s mid morning snooze, for he responded to my queries with grunts. Should I speak Hindi, I wondered. That’s sometimes a dilemma - whether to use Hindi or English with anyone south or east of the Hindi belt. I decided to abandon English for Hindi. He grunted some more, consequently bursting the bubble of my enthusiasm. I decided to look closer home.

I trudged (metaphorically) back to the ‘market site’ and entered my ‘requirement’ in triplicate; yes, you have to retype in each slot, each time, for each dealer. One hundred bags, 13 inches by 15 inches, broad long strap. White /off white/ khadi colour. They also ask you if it’s for personal use (yes, I need 100 bags to buy 100 fruits and vegetables for 100 weeks). Some of the suppliers display an MOQ–Minimum Order Quantity. In many cases, it is 1000. “1000 bags for 1000 weeks of fruits and veggies?” I giggled to myself.

This was followed by the portal calling thrice to verify my details. Why couldn’t they just read the details I had entered thrice? Not wanting to put the telecaller in a spot, I responded civilly.

Then, a tiny hiccup. The Kolkata babumoshai having caviled at my query, I had put in identical requirements for suppliers at Pune. I got some garbled message from the portal saying they had rejected my requirement. This was, however, followed promptly by a list of suppliers in Pune.

Not looking the gift horse in the mouth, I grabbed the numbers of a few suppliers that looked promising. The search is still on. I will call, visit these suppliers, look at samples and hopefully be able to place the order for the 100 cotton tote bags.

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Madhuri Maitra
Madhuri Maitra published her first two books in 2014. Haiku and other Micropoetry is a collection of short verse on nature, love and life; while Equinox is a novel dealing with urban realities. Madhuri lives in Pune and teaches Film Appreciation in addition to Creative Writing. She also conducts workshops for children and adults. Read more on her website .

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