Our love affair with flowers is well known. From offering saffron hues of Marigold for worshiping God to the decorative malas(garlands) made out with choicest of fragrant Mogras and Rajnigandhas for wedding ceremonies, filling the ambience with sweet calmness and craving belongingness and a grand affair to spill over, seems surreal. Even making a beauty statement further, a dainty jasmine flower chain is worn in the hair in form of Gajras(small garland chains) by the bride and some of the dames virtuously, during the ceremony and even on day to day life; Flowers, the epitome of nature’s beauty are surely for real even though ephemeral.
The flowers with its pure exquisite beauty sometimes professes a pristine hope and at times teases the heart with new desire. The queen of flowers is not behind though. Something mystical about it. Rose is a rose is a rose. It’s like an alluring beauty having a profound deepness in it’s belly to be expressed. As if whispering a tale to tell:
“But he who dares not grasp the thorn,
Should never crave for the rose.”
– Anne Bronte…
The story doesn’t end but rather begins here. It’s the tale of a flower-seller and the story of a regular urban girl like you and me, two people from totally different realms of world.
Every morning Ganga, who is almost sixty, will walk down nine kilometres with her chapped, barren feet at a stretch to the nearby highway road to sell Rose bouquets. Those bouquets couldn’t match with the ones which we find in city boutiques. They were not as refined and never did had the touch of artistry unlike them.
Her’s were the bunch of roses knitted together as naturally as they are meant to be; untouched and unspoiled by any. City people and passers-by will pick up those for the bargain they get, as it is half the cost of freshness being offered. At days, she will reap One-fifty Rupees and if lucky may be Three Hundred, which was pretty rare. But then some days will mock her hardships further and she will return home almost empty handed to feed two ever-urging stomach, burden of non-refilled medicines, reconciling with the bare minimum necessities.
It’s been almost seven years that she started this meagre income source after her husband Hari was diagnosed with Cirrhosis coz of excessive liquor consumption and was left partially paralysed. Ganga was married when she was hardly seventeen. At that tender age, only purpose for which she got married was to get three times of meal which her father couldn’t provide belonging to a poor landless tribal belt. Her entire life she was devoted to Hari as she laboured, toiled hard to support him over the years.
It was not like this before as Hari was a skillful young man and kept Ganga well nourished and cherished. Things started crumbling as he fell prey to intoxicant and the days of misery just added bit by bit to the extent that today he lay there motionless, half decayed forgoing Ganga to God’s mercy. Even if childless, the marriage was fruitful as Hari always was a faithful husband and Ganga a true consort.
The month of July this year was falling short of rain. Scattered drizzles could not uplift the brazen spirit longing for rain. That morning when Ganga reached her usual spot besides the highway road, a few minutes to nine, a car halted just across the crossing and a figure walked towards her.
A girl in her late twenties, pleasent and cherubic, yet something frazzled and somber about her demeanour approached. She picked up a bouquet and without any hesitation paid the price leaving no room for negotiation. Ganga felt relieved as the day began with a happy note.
Quite attentively and heedfully, Maya placed the bouquet on the front seat of her car, as if a mother settling her baby gently. As she started driving, her tenacity could not uphold the leftover anguish and her red, tear rimmed eyes dripped with the showers of intense bereavement.
Roses are so special. Especially special are these red ones as those were dearest to Mom, she gasped. Mother herself planted, watered, pruned and nurtured them….these beautiful babies, she used to call them playfully. Roses are God’s best gift to nature, according to mom it was.
“These satin silk petals in those fragile layers spreading along with it a tender, warm aroma is like a magic, which can uplift any wearied heart,” Mother used to confess. And every time she will handpick a few and knit them together and decorate them besides the bed.
And that fine day, when she was just twelve and she saved some money to buy a bouquet for mom’s birthday, and with the gleeful expressions on mom’s eyes, tears of gladness rolled down her cheek, she accepted and kissed those roses and murmured,
“How blessed a mother can be having a girl like you! “
Perhaps that was the best surprise she ever received in her life. Through out the years, Maya knew that her Mother was a tender, sensitive soul just like the Roses. So much so that even life’s natural toils and trials were harsher to her. She was too good, too fragile to be in this jagged world. And just like that one day abruptly, she gave up the ultimate fight; the fight for life and with that collapsed Maya’s affectionate existence too.
It’s been ten years, she lost her and on every birthday of Mother, she would pick up a bouquet filled with brightest of bright red roses and will place it besides her bed, the way Mom used to. Over the years even the pain and agony to bear the loss became a routine.
As if nothing is in our hand. And this ceaseless toil to win, to capture, to gain, to impress, to fight it out anyhow, continues and never ends.
“If nothing is in our hand and we are mere puppets then why this perennial toil! What an irony!” Perhaps that’s what is Life; you eat, you sleep, you love, you work, you cry, you smile, you scream but you live knowing the unknown. Life is hope and to have hope is life.”, she reflected.
But today was an unusual day. There was something about the day. Something hopeful, may be. When she woke up and drifted her bedroom curtains aside, the morning sky looked a little more azure and the birds chirping felt like a sweet Mozart Piano Sonata to soothe a crying newborn.
She was well aware that it was Mother’s birthday today but she didn’t feel forlorn, rather a strange smile flickered on her face and she brushed her fingers across the belly quietly and softly. She knew if alive, Mom would have jumped to glory out of sheer happiness after getting the blissful news.
But truth like roses have thorns and she is not there in this transient mortal world, where she can hug her tight and Mom would kiss her belly and bless the new lease of life to flourish and prosper, which is breathing within her. For where, she can cry her heart out with tears of sorrow as well as happiness clutching mom tight, for one last time.
While driving through the mist and drizzle, Maya made up her mind. She reached where she left from. She went to the usual spot and rendered the bouquet to Ganga. Quite astonished, Ganga was dismayed as she hardly made any earning today. Little hesitatingly, she took out money and offered Maya back her amount.
“Do not as these are for you; from me to you. If only anything in this world, these beauties will aptly match the beauty of your soul….a soul which has seen and faced it all valiantly all through and still smiles…a soul liberated.”
All these years she was just a flower seller. But today, Ganga was more than that. She felt like a woman, like a human after all, a sensation which was lost in these many years, within the intricacies of survival and to top that being wretched and poor was nothing less than a sin. Though already wilted after a full day exposure, the Rose still appeared luminous as if for the first time it’s heart swelled and overflowed with joy for being with a beautiful soul like her. Ganga caressed those delicate petals for once gently, but with her coarse, withered fingers as if it was the most invaluable thing in this world to her. For the first time in life, she held those bunches of Roses on her hand like a proud owner, rather than a caretaker or to say a seller. She smiled at Maya with heartfelt thankfulness.
But then while she was still in that sudden unexpected state of indulgence, Maya scouted her purse and took out a Five Hundred Rupee note and placed it on Ganga’s palm and clasped them intact with her own hands and looking straight deep down to Ganga’s eyes, kind of gaze which pierces through one’s soul, she whispered calmly to Ganga,
” Today is my Mother’s Birthday. She is not with us anymore. I want you to get some sweets for your family to celebrate this auspicious day with me. Would you mind doing that?”
Ganga couldn’t stop the inner battle and sobbed with gratitude and accepted the grant. She smiled and mulled over that finally tonight Hari’s medicines could be replenished.
And saying so, Maya left the place. While walking back towards the car, as the gentle supple drizzles slid down her face and then neck and a sense of repose and feeling at peace sank in, she was reminded of what mother used to say,
“The Rose always speaks of love silently in a language known only to the heart, my dear.”
Image Courtsey: The Rose Seller by Uday Narayanan @http://udaynarayanan.com/
Note: The story is incomplete without this note. Few days back I happened to visit Uday Narayanan’s photography blog ‘Slice of Life’. It’s an work of art with exquisite, impressive shots. To say less, Uday for me is an amazing photographer. Quite playfully, I mentioned on the vivid capture I used in this story ‘The Rose Seller’ to him, that it’s an intriguing photograph and I would love to write a piece on this. Uday gave me the consent for the visual and I hope I gave right words to it with my humble effort. Thank you Uday for having faith.