Like the throngs of pre- Deepavali shoppers, I must have walked my feet off - in Brickfields, Masjid India, KL Sentral , not only to get ready - also to savour the sights and smells of Deepavali.
A stop over at the flower stalls is a must. In Brickfields, the flower stalls always face the frenzied flow of the traffic. So, you can see the stalls, awash with colours from far and know where to head to.
I wanted the usual - marigolds and chrysanthemums of all hues - purple, maroon, brilliant yellow, orange, pink. And most important of all, the fragrant jasmine ( jasminum odoratssimum)
'How much do you want?' the 'boss' shouted above the loud Carnatic music over the speakers.
` 20 hands,' I said, stretching my hand to show the distance between my elbow and the finger tips. 'How much?', meaning the price.
` RM1.20,' was the reply. I gave him an uncertain look and true to his business form, he replied, '` Today, RM1.20. Tomorrow you come, RM1.50', casting a reassuring look in my direction.
I smiled. 'Buds, please.' The altar has to be decorated and I'll be blessed manifold! The 'boss' shouted an order to an old woman, in her 60s, seated at a table full of jasmine flowers - little delicate, fragrant white buds. Strands of ready -soaked jute were ready to tie up the flowers.
Amidst all the noise of the vendors, muscic, banterings, traffic honks, she caught my attention. She was serene and unperturbed. I fell in love with her there and then!
So, out came the camera and she didn't even know! Like all generations before her, she is an expert in weaving the jasmine flowers into strands. From young, the fingers have been 'trained' to make and slip the knots that hold the jasmine flowers, 2 or 4 at each point with a little space between the next flowers and so forth. This flower seller, 'pookari', in Tamil, worked relentlessly but seemingly effortlessly.
Meanwhile, I picked the choicest of chrysanthenums standing in colourful buckets of water.In no time, my order of 20 'hands' were done! All measured with her own hand. Then she took a small wad of newspaper and began to roll the strand of flowers into a nice,neat ball. Last of all, she wrapped it in a newspaper. I paid the money and wished her 'Happy Diwali'.
Humble as her task may seem, and that of her fellow flower sellers, male or female, their efforts are put to paid when little girls pretty their plaits with jasmines, ladies dangle a short strand on her nicely coiffured hair. What more, the Gods are adorned with the fragrant strands in the homes and temples. Blessings!
When the festival is over and you want some flowers, look for the 'pookaris' outside shops on the five foot way. You will find him/her seated at a small table with his/her bare essentials to serve every customer. Likely too, a small stall resides outside a temple for the worshippers.
My tribute to the ' pookaris' - YOU make us beautiful! May the Gods smile on you too!!