Murugan Stores

I am not sure if you’ve noticed this, but almost every locality, every little borough and lane and pin-code in Chennai has a Murugan Store. ‘Tis true, for I’ve seen them all. (An achievement more great, for, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all)

The typical Murugan store is a general provisions merchant. Almost always run by a Nadar family, they plug the gaps in trade and commerce that, in the past weren’t plugged, and now, plugged inefficiently by the FoodWorlds of the world. (Nice turn of phrase, ain’t it?)

The typical Murugan store will be dark, cramped, and musty. It will have, in its employ, three muscular young men, collectively called “Payya”. It will almost always have a few big bags in the entrance, each filled with one kind of rice. Inside, shelves are crammed with all kinds of biscuits, toy cars made of plastic, ‘Cooling drinks’ bottles, notebooks, pens, pencils, bangles, ‘sticker pottus’ and other merchandise. Across the length and breadth of the shop, run grimy ropes from which hang ream after ream of sachets. Sachets of shampoos, pickles, sugary candies, chewing gum, salt, and more.

Of late, this cramped interior also boasts individual refrigerators for Pepsi and Coke. And just behind the cash counter, (in reality, a wooden table with draws – about which I will describe later) sits the owner of the establishment. In front of her are 5-6 glass jars filled with toffees, gums and the like.

From her command centre, she greets intrepid shoppers. Each Murugan store has two kinds of customers – the regulars and the yet-to-be-converted. The regulars are identified by means of the holy-bible they carry – the Account book. This tiny book lists the purchases the customer has made, the amount she owes the store and her ledger number. A rudimentary system of credit, the account book allows a regular customer to buy now, pay later.

The process of trade begins – our shoppers proceeds to list our all her (or quite possibly, his) requirements. As she does this, the owner, in a voice that has been tempered by years of shouting to subordinates, orders her staff to pack the requested for item.
In something that must truly be a miracle, the ‘payyas’ are actually able to locate the different ‘paruppus’ (pulses, for my international readers) in the dark interior, measure it our to the gram, and parcel it up in old newspapers. Once this is done, the account book is handed over, the owner makes her strange notations and off the shopper goes.

While the above might be true of almost any “Provisions store” in Chennai (even the rest of India), it gets truly wonderful in a Murugan store, because I can’t stop thinking how similar all the Murugan stores are, and if they, perhaps, are part of a large chain of retail stores. If you still don’t believe me, come, take a ride with me. I shall point out the Murugan stores in the following locations:

  • Adyar – Gandinagar
  • Anna Nagar
  • Ashok Nagar
  • Kilpauk
  • KK Nagar
  • Mandavelli
  • Triplicane
  • and others

11 Comments so far

  1. Ravi (unregistered) on September 6th, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

    I prefer such stores over the glitzy and so called ‘hep’ Supermarkets. These stores have a personal touch associated with them – be it door delivery or taking a handful of something for free or asking for a discount. Surprisingly the stock (atleast for most essential items) used to be new.

  2. ramesh (unregistered) on September 7th, 2006 @ 10:09 am

    nice observation! i know one in alwarpet.
    how about some pics though ?

  3. phantom363 (unregistered) on September 7th, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

    not sure if ‘paiyya’ is a politically correct word anymore. it might imply insults. :( just check out :(

    i always prefer the murugans anyday to the foodworlds. :)

  4. michael murugan (unregistered) on September 8th, 2006 @ 2:35 am


    as a converted murugan, i was amused by your article. i hope you will visit my humble srimuruganmall and enjoy! i do not know if you will find toffee though.

    Om Muruga

  5. Rasaraka (unregistered) on September 8th, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    The one in Anna Nagar (AB block?) is clean, well-lit, spacious and always charges a few rupees less than MRP.

  6. I (unregistered) on September 8th, 2006 @ 10:47 pm

    Extremely well written! I enjoyed reading that.

  7. Anu (unregistered) on September 8th, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

    Wow! Nice one CCG.

  8. rads (unregistered) on September 9th, 2006 @ 2:54 am

    West Mambalam has one!

  9. V.S.Jayaraaman (unregistered) on September 9th, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    A well-written write-up. Keep it up.

    Posted by V.S.Jayaraaman
    Email address:

  10. sundar (unregistered) on September 10th, 2006 @ 8:40 am

    murugaa!!!nice express on an everyday observance…

  11. seema (unregistered) on September 13th, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

    we enjoyed reading,there is one in Habbibulla Road.

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