The moment I landed up with my camera at the flower market near mattuthavani bus stand in Madurai, I was expecting to take shots of various kinds of flowers for my collection. Frankly I did not realize that there would be a fantastic opportunity to get to know about some interesting persons who sell flowers.
Roses, Marigold, Jasmine, Lilly and many more flowers were all stacked up, yet something that caught my attention were the persons who were sitting behind the heap of flowers in their baskets and on their sack sporting a warm and cordial smile even at the odd hours of the day, I was there around midnight. The grit and determination of the flower vendors to have a rewarding sale by connecting with people despite the hardships they faced, was evidently surfacing from the surrounding even more than the fragrance of the flowers.
The delicate manner in which Sridevi was knotting a garland of Kadambam (a mixture of Rose petals, Marigold and Herbal Leaves which people use for their homes and offices ) was a sight to behold and could not be passed by without being caught on my camera. I asked her for a picture to be taken and she obliged, but it was sheer hard work and no smile.
Pondering why Sridevi did not smile I kept on moving around the flower market to lookout for some other persons who sold flower till I got some of them on my camera for a picture. Just then a voice called out for me and asked me why I was at the flower market at a very odd hour taking pictures. I looked around to the direction from where the sound came and got the sight of this lady who was sitting with a basket of Roses.
I walked up to her and was greeted with an instant smile that was warm and innocent. I took some pictures of the roses and then asked her what her name was? In a striking note she replied in Tamil with an authentic Madurai slang….Ennai Ellorum Rosapookaramma endru than kupuduvaargal ( All will call me as a Rose Lady). I smiled and sat down to have chat with her ………..
Rosapookaramma was very glad to pose for a photograph imagining that her photograph would be flashed in the next morning newspaper, as she mistook me to be a press photographer. I then took pains to explain to her that I am not a press photographer, but instead a writer & publisher and my purpose of visiting the flower market was to do a blog on the ‘Festival of Diwali in Madurai’, of course with a different purpose. But I promised her that I would publish her photograph in my blog.
It was hard to imagine that she sleeps and eats at the very place she sells her roses, though she hails from a neighbouring village around Melur. She goes home once in fifteen days to see her family, as this flower business in her main source of income being the only bread winner of her family. She had tears in her eyes while saying…”we have large agricultural lands back home, but there are no rains and we cannot either do farming activities or agricultural related work to earn our living”. My heart stopped for a minute…..just wondering how life could turn around. A family with lands but unable to earn out of it from their natural vocation is subjected to seek some alternative source of income generation. And that too in what conditions…..sleeping and eating in the same place where she sells her flowers. Literally living on the road.
What she said after narrating her story to me was the highlight of our brief interaction. She said ……….” I Sell Roses….and Roses comes with thorns….yet people like and love the Roses for the beauty of it, not bothering about the thorns. So also is our life….whatever difficulty we have or encounter to live we hide it as the thorns and only share the happiness to our customers by giving them a value for their money. We sell Roses with happiness and a smile, so that they go happily”.
I returned home with a bag full of Roses….though she wanted to present it to me for being kind enough to sit down for a chat, I insisted that she take the money for it, which she politely refused. But then, I managed to thrust a 100 Rupee Currency into her hands.
She asked me to come back tomorrow to take some more fresh Roses for my Daughter. What an attitude?
No wonder people called her “Rosapookaramma” it was hard to conceal the inner beauty that she radiated, despite living an extremely hard life day in and day out.
I moved away from the flower market saying bye to her with a moist eyes and my heart reverberating the famous lines……“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy forever!”