The title reminds one of the hippie movement that started in the early 1960s, my experience with the mapusa market was quite similar to the nature of this movement as it involved me trying to be a part of the harmonious synthesis that the market is. “Flower” in the title makes it more than obvious that my centre of study was the flower market.
The reason for choosing the same, were the many colours, and different potent smells, or to be more precise fragrances, and the people that were around them. The curiosity to know how these people like selling what other people consider as things of beauty, and also sometimes the perfect gift, help me make up my mind.
Another aspect that lured me to the flower market were the cobwebs that were hanging atop, a beautiful irony. I wanted to explore the opinions that the flower sellers have about them.
Roaming around in the flower market for two consecutive days, attracted a lot of attention from both sellers and customers. Besides flowers being sold the flower market houses a number of other shops which sell Wines and Cashew, the market by lanes also comprise of tailors, and women selling coconuts, jaggery and other household items.
Talking to the flower sellers, I came to know that most of the women sellers have been a part of this market for a lifetime, in a sense that previously their mothers or sisters, or great grandmothers used to sit in the same spot that they now sit. Mind you, no one takes each other’s places they have been decided for a long time now. Some women have seen their family members in this activity for as long as 35-50 years!
Another amazing fact was that these women sell their flowers mostly in form of garlands, ‘gajras’, and never loose, barring the flower wholesalers who sell them loose in bulk.
The garlands depending on their size vary from being sold at INR 300 for the most extravagant, to as low as INR 20 for a humble gajra. The flowers on sale mostly include Asters(Shevanti-local name), Roses, Rajnigandha, Marigold, Bombay Lilies, Yellow Buttons, Amboli, and green leaves, and mind you every seller has a favourite and tries to sell it the most!
The sale of flowers, according to the sellers, doesn’t depend much on the Market Day. Every day they have a set number of customers, but they notice a hike during festival days, especially during ‘zatra/jatra.’
The sellers, as far as the aspect of bargain is concerned, are more than comfortable with it. I was surprised to see how accommodative they were to bargaining. But the funny fact is that the same attitude changes on days of less customers, their moods, and sale to foreign tourists. Some of the sellers did candidly confess that they prefer selling their flowers to the locals than tourists.
On further questioning, the opinion on cobwebs came out. They were a bit hesitant to talk about them because they thought I had come from the Municipality’s side to ask them to clean them. If not all, most of them were of the opinion that it is the Municipality’s job to clean them up. Some agreed that they do clean them up, but only the ones that were around and above their spot. A very few of them were fascinated by the intricate designs hanging above their heads, most of them were disgusted, and surprisingly did nothing about it! It reminded me of a few of my college professors, although you hate them you have to co-exist…
The observations and conclusions for this project were provided by the numerous flower sellers sitting day-in-day-out, but I personally struck a chord with a few of them and would like to mention them in this project—
Minakshi was one of the first sellers I met and talked with. Her warmth attracted me straight away. She has been selling flowers for 30 years herself, and been in the flower selling business for as long as 50 years, from her mother’s side.
She was quite insightful, she was one of those few who didn’t mind the cobwebs being there, and actually saw them as something beautiful but she also mentioned that they weren’t as beautiful as the flowers she sold(laughing). When asked on what beauty means to her she associated it with the flowers around her. Her favourite flower was Aster. At her spot she was selling mostly garlands worth INR 40 and gajras worth INR 20.
Sushila has been a part of the market for a period of 20-25 years, she also mentioned that her mother and sisters were involved in the same. Another interesting fact that she let me in on was that instead of staying at home and looking after her husband and family after marriage, her mother encouraged her to carry on selling flowers!
Her favourite flower is the Small rose. She too was selling garlands ranging from INR 80 to INR 20. She mentioned that she was okay with the aspect of bargaining and that ladies could be a quite persuasive lot. She despised the cobwebs around her and stressed on the aspect of cleanliness, she made sure the first thing she did in the morning was to get rid of the ones around her. She was perturbed for they were hanging over things that are being sold to eat, and found it completely the unhygienic. She strongly opined that the Municipality should do something about it, it’s their responsibility to do the same.
Mehboob was one of the only wholesalers I talked to. His chirpy and talkative nature helped me gain insight on how it feels to be a wholesaler in the mapusa market. Originally from Karnataka, he has been selling flowers in the market for 7 years. Mehboob does business with his uncle Shaukat, and his younger brother by his side. With selling flowers loose, they also had garlands on sale ranging over INR 300, 200, 50, 40 and 20, depending on the size and flowers used. They had fixed rates as far as sale was concerned, but it would lapse during the ‘zatra/jatra’ season. When asked on what beauty was to him, he mentioned his mother. For him she was the most beautiful thing he had ever come across. Asters and Yellow Buttons were among their favourites. They gave me a sample of each flower as a token of remembrance.
The experience and working on the decided project has helped me grow as an individual, and I am happy to have met all these people and how they try and make a living by selling, what we generally pluck from our gardens. It is a much more extensive and intensive process and requires a certain level of involvement which was a common feature among the varying people I came across.