Note: The result of interesting conversations with our flower-sellers.
To many, Chennai might seem a city of glass and chrome (or huts and slush if you look at it another way). Of multistoried apartments, software pottis, cut-outs, corporate structures, sweeping financial tides and sky-scrapers. Old-timers might mourn the loss of many traditions now long lost … but there are still a few left, which bring up a tsunami of memories. Not to mention the fact that a huge industry exists, based on centuries old tradition, right under our very noses. It’s composed of a set of rules, properly followed, a large turnover, and teeming hordes of industrious workers who make sure its wheels turn smoothly.
They’re the flower-sellers of Chennai.
They’re usually part of a blink-and-you-miss act in the usual routine of the average Chennaiite; they’re around in the mornings or evenings, dressed in well-worn saris, toting a huge basket filled with every kind of native flowers that the landscape has to offer. The women of the house are the ones who generally look out for these flower-ladies, checking their wares of jasmine, kadhambam, roses, saamandhi and every other colourful, fragrant blossom in the bloom-spectrum. And that’s just the first part of the process. The other consists of haggling over the prices, groaning over the steadily increased rates, sighing over the days when flowers were practically free, or grown in one’s gardens … and then coming to certain conclusions about what to buy, what not to, sharing some good-natured gossip about the worldly happenings, and then going each other’s way.
And that’s just the simple part.
What’s much more complicated is the intricate web of commerce that connects all of them together. Meenatchi, a 50ish flower-seller who frequents the streets of Alapakkam, is one of the important cogs that help the system run efficiently. She’s aware of the fact too – right down to the finesse of speech that categorizes down-to-earth people such as her.
“Selling flowers makes me independent,” she says nonchalantly, measuring a length of jasmine against her arm for Rs 10. “My children are all grown up now and settled – and I need a source of income to see me through. What I earn here is more than enough.”
Her days start early enough, and at Koyambedu, the perennial flower-market that’s the parent body for these smaller sellers. “I go around the streets surrounding the Meenakshi dental College, and right up to Valasaravakkam,” she divulges. “People are always fond of flowers – so I’ve no trouble selling mine.”
For Vasanthi, part of a sister-duo that takes the Nungambakkam beat, things aren’t so easy. “Where have I got the time to stop and chat?” she asks breathlessly, as I try to get her to into a conversation. “I’m up from 4 in the morning, and I have to get my business done by 7 AM,” she rattles, handing out bunches of roses and lotuses to a long queue of customers. Incredibly, her prices are even higher than Meenatchi’s. “Well, it’s a muhurtha day,” she explains, though her eyes drop. “And I’m already sold out – must get more from my sister.” She hurries away before I can question the atrocity of getting two lotuses for twenty rupees. “What can I do?” she calls out. “The prices at the market are so high.”
Deciding that this mysterious market of theirs warranted investigation, I made plans for an expedition to the famed Koyambedu flower-market, the common supplying-point for many of the flower-sellers that swept over the cityscape. Earlier based in Parrys, this focal point had shifted sometime ago to Koyambedu, a sprawling cement structure where I discovered, much to my amazement, that one entire building, the size of a good-sized southern Tamil temple, was wholly occupied by the Koyambedu Malar Angadi – the Flower Market.
My first crossing of paths with Poet Salma, so to speak – was through a bundle of controversies. Until then, I’d only had a vague idea of who she was. Looking at excerpts of her work made me determined to find out more about her, and I read every interview I could ever lay my hands on.
But those weren’t enough. Soon, I wanted to see the rebel in person – because so often, what you read is very seldom a real reflection of who a person is. I dug into her whereabouts, and – surprise! – discovered that she was in Chennai after all – and met her.
Perhaps those of the glittering literati out there have already read all there is to read of her – but to me, it was an experience and a half. That’s what I’ve tried to record here. Perhaps Nandhu might like to add his perceptions as well. :)
On Saturday, October 20, 2007, it was a holiday for Ayudha Pooja for major establishments at Chennai.
Those who worked in these establishments have had the Ayudha Pooja celebrated on the previous day evening.
Many would have celebrated the Pooja at their homes on the morning of Saturday.
Yet people could be seen gearing up for the celebrations by purchasing the pumpkins (poosani kai), puffed rice (arisi pori), fruits, thoranam, maa ilai etc.,
IT Corridor at Chennai is taking shape slowly and steadily. The stretch from Madhya Kailash to SRP Tools is almost complete. Traffic moves fast in the IT corridor either to stagnate at the Adyar end or near the Thiruvanmiyur Railway Station end. Traffic was light this morning being a Sunday. Here are some images of the IT corridor shot today
On account of Teacher’s Day, you see. I thought I might write something that threw the spotlight on teachers.
One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
~ Carl Jung
“I’ve been in the teaching field for 36 years,” she smiles. “And I don’t think I shall ever tire of it. It’s the noblest profession there is – because it’s not just about you. It’s about the next generation you help raise.”
A beatific expression graces the visage of Eugenie Pinto, Principal of the Queen Mary’s College, as we sit opposite each other in her spacious office, which projects a soothing aura of contrasting presences: today’s world, and an olde worlde charm that is quintessentially QMC. I have just wound my way through old and statuesque buildings still bearing remnants of the British Raj’s aura, around a bust of regal Queen Mary, and up corridors that positively reek of history, to meet Eugenie – and am aware, at once, that here sits a lady who has taken to the profession for all the right reasons: a sincere love for the vocation, a talent for foresight, and a genuine wish to assist those around her.
A year ago, a friend of mine mentioned a shoe repair clinic in Spencers, Mr.Pronto. Gullible that I am, I refused to believe in what seemed to me to be a really fast one. Yeah right, I said. Funnily, he was too amused to pursue that conversation any further. And then, a few weeks ago, surprise oh surprise, I ran into the Mr.Pronto shoe and bag repair clinic in Anna Nagar. A professional place to fix the buckles and straps and heels. I heard that their service is very good. But, shoo me, I am still too stunned to try it out.
While participating in the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) Car Shed at Tambaram in December 2006, Minister of State for Railways R. Velu said the MRTS services till Velachery were to be extended by the year-end, but the heavy rain delayed the work in a small part of the track, though installation of the girders was complete and it was expected to be completed by March-end.
March 07 has come and gone. The Minister of State for Railways has now given another deadline.
Today is May Day. May Day had its origin in United States during the campaign for eight hour day when men, women and children often worked 10 or more hours a day, seven days a week.
Triumph of Labour Statue at Chennai
Traditionally, Chennai has not been seen as the best paymaster when it comes to jobs in the metros (save for Kolkata). There always existed a salary differential (on the lower side) compared to Delhi or Mumbai. Cost of living was often cited as a factor and this usually meant housing and transportation expenses. But, over the years, whether or not people are aware of the narrowing of this differential, the cost of living has indeed gone up in the southern metropolis, especially due to the rapid rise in housing costs over the last two to three years. And proactive employers, who have not been blind to this fact, have upped the stakes in the war for talent by offering higher compensation or housing-related perks. But they are just a minority and a large number of people – both employers and job-seekers are somehow caught in a time-wrap with respect to their approach on this issue. To put things in perspective, a decent (defined as at least a 1000 square feet), new apartment in most areas inside the city would be not less than Rs. 36,00,000.