I’ve developed a rather late interest in flowers. And why not? With all the frivolous things that we spend on, a little bit of beauty is much appreciated. Why must a gift always be intelligent or useful? How about just alive? Nothing better than a flower then. Here’s an account of my most recent floral jaunt.

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I’m not too fond of big, gaudy bouquets with more plastic and foil than plant. In fact I think the experience of being in a flower shop and watching the nosegays being made is the best part of buying flowers.

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The flowers you choose say something about you, don’t they? I love white flowers. Nothing quite like white rosebuds for sheer, intimidating class. Lilies are nice too though a little too goody-goody for my taste…I guess that’s because I associate too many religious myths with them. My favorite white flowers are the unpretentious gladiolas that lurk in the background, bringing a sweet, frilly girlishness to the bouquet. On their own, they are surprisingly appealing.

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In ‘You’ve Got Mail’, Meg Ryan calls the daisy her favorite flower, describing it as ‘a very friendly flower’. Zarberas must be an Eastern equivalent of daisies. And slightly more dignified than the over-eager sunflowers. I particularly like the orange variety. There is something clean and colourful about this flower that catches my attention in any flower-shop.

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The classic roses always grace flower shops but personally I think they are over-rated and over-used. And what fragrance? I don’t think they’re fragrant at all. For fragrance you need the Indian buds that are knotted painstakingly into ‘ambodas’, garlands and gajras. Olfactory sensations are processed by an area right next door to the central repository of memories in the brain. That might be the reason some smells induce an instant flood of memories. And these fragrant wreaths of Indian flowers always take me back to early childhood with my mother and grand-mother spinning flowers plucked fresh off the vines on the balcony.

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The first time I bought someone flowers, I asked around for where I should buy. I visited some of the highly recommended places and was first dazzled by the array of flowers….I never thought there could be so many flowers in the world!!! Dimly, as a concept studied in botany in school, yes but put together in one place like that, the effect was quite gorgeous. Each one had a hefty price tag with a snooty florist quoting the botanical name and which obscure part of the world they were supposed to have originated from. I was quite unnerved. Hmm, that was my mistake.

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The flower business like everything else has gotten branded and showy. This time, on a whim, I stopped at a little flower stall I spotted on the corner of a road. Not a florist shop. One of those little outfits that do brisk business off a creaky wooden table on crowded roads. All the photographs in this post are from that visit.

And look at the flowers I finally got!

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This is Akhilendra who also moonlights as a production assistant in a shooting studio (I was given a proud preview of his identity card). Akhilendra is not a newcomer to Mumbai. But he had a cheerful ebullience that I missed in all the big florist shops that I visited earlier. He didn’t give me the usual spiel of how many weddings and birthdays he caters to daily and how many dozens people order from him. Instead I was given some expert advice on which flowers I might select and what arrangement might look best.

So the flower business is good?

And production work pays well?

People come buy from you when they are very happy, no?

All my questions met with shy nods and always that quick smile.

What do we look for in flowers? Sweetness, pleasantness, freshness….a modest, unassuming, classy gift. And shouldn’t that describe the attitude of the person who touches the flowers just before us? I found what I look for at a crowded street corner vendor’s table.

3 thoughts on “Only flowers”
  1. Sorry to deviate from the topic, but the word that struck me here was “moonlighting” how I have never done it in my life.. just wondering if it is too late πŸ™‚

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