As soon as I introduce myself to people as, “Hello, I’m Poonam Dungdung” people give me a strange look at the end of the sentence…
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She sells Flowers for a Living.
As I sip my morning tea, sitting comfortably on my rocking armchair, enjoying the dawn of the crimson sun, I see some passersby, many cyclists, few shops being opened for business, and a couple of joggers on the busy road. It’s 6 am and I’m happily sipping my tea sitting next to my partner.
From a distance, I see an old woman ( aged between 70–80 years)carrying a huge bag full of flowers, limping and heading towards the footpath near my house. As she reached the footpath, she slowly put her heavy bag down and carefully brought out her low height, worn-out long foldable table, covered it with a table cloth to make it look presentable, where she displayed her flowers neatly in four different plastic bags and some handmade garlands in one corner.
It’s usually cold and windy in the mornings, so she had covered her head with a blue scarf and wore a brown cardigan to keep herself warm. She also has a weighing scale, water bottle, and an old rug to sit on while waiting for her customers. It’s a common practice in Indian households to worship deities with fresh flowers every day, so she keeps her flowers fresh by sprinkling water from time to time.
She seems to have some permanent customers (as I see them visit her daily)who buy flowers and readymade garlands from her every day and to some, she delivers at home. As the day progresses, she shifts her little arrangement under the canopy of the Gulmohar tree.
Of all the flowers she keeps for sale, the Shiuli flowers ( English name: Night flowering Jasmine) are my favorites. Their fragrance is mesmerizing and tingles the olfactory nerves and fills the brain with memories of my childhood. When young, I’d these flower shrubs at home. It’d permeate our whole house with its sweet scent and positivity every time it blossomed.
It still fills my house with it’s intoxicating sweet scent of bliss as the Shiuli flower waits patiently on the footpath now, to be bought by a flower lover. The reason I’m writing about the Flower Lady ( as I would like to call her) is that her flowers made me nostalgic, and more importantly, she symbolizes strength and perseverance. I often ponder — when old, one retires from work and has the liberty to choose good life, rest, and vacations, but here, the Flower Lady doesn’t have any choice rather she’s working hard, trying to make her ends meet. Doesn’t she need a vacation or a day off from work? If she does who’ll feed her family.
I bet she’d be earning less than $ 5 a day, which doesn’t hold value for most of us — does it? But, for her, it’s the earning of the day — where she can buy food and other necessities for her family. Selling flowers roadside is her only way to earn a living. As I compare myself to her I feel I’m privileged and blessed. When she’s selling her flowers in the early mornings, I’ve got the privilege of sipping my tea and scrolling through my cellphone, till I get back to my daily chores. In short, I’m in no hurry.
Did I ever acknowledge my privileges or rather took them for granted ? When I reach her age I’ll probably retire and enjoy the company of my grandkids or go on vacation with them. It’d never cross my mind that I’d work a day more as I turn 70. But for her, It’s her daily struggle living hand to mouth. Why should anybody less privileged than we, make us realize our privileges and blessings ? Do we really count our blessings every day and be grateful to the Almighty for the same? Many do and many don’t.
If you agree with the latter, could we all start today and fill our lives and days with gratitude for what we’ve. It’s a small start for sure but it’ll make us admire our lives more, make us humble, and empathize with others.
Having said that, I feel humbled as the “Flower woman chose a meager footpath next to my house to sell her flowers”.
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