Monday, October 19, 2009

Flower sellers - 'Pookaris'

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!!


  1. I bet that place smell so good. The white one looks like the sampaguita flower in the Philippines!

    By the way, I am trying to generate some support for our daughter. I entered her into a Smile Contest, so if you could please vote for her (just once), the contest runs until October 31st. Your vote would be so much appreciated.

    To cast your vote, please go to this link. Please look for Jillian Rylie Cottrill.

    Thank you very much for your help!

  2. Those flowers are so beautiful! It's amazing how they string them together. I'm pretty klutzy, so I'd wreck the flowers for sure!

  3. Hi
    Joops, will certainly get into the Smile Contest and look for the name :)

    Palidor, thanks for visiting. if you like the post, do pass the word around your friends. I've just started and the post is being vetted. So, do visit again, if you can:)

  4. Lovely tribute for the pookaris. We've got to appreciate their great work!

  5. Those garlands are gorgeous! I used to work with flowers, but could never do something so intricate.

  6. '20 hands' that's interesting meaning from elbow to tip of finger is one hand so you bought 20 of that length? Usually I just asked for RM1.00 and did not check how long they gonna give me. Some like you mentioned would roll it over a ball of newspaper and some simply put it into a plastic bag. Learn another new word pookari for flower seller. Nandri

  7. Thanks for the real look at the place of the flowers.

  8. Hi Keats, oh, that's what its called pookaris..I have no idea. the place I stay have a huge Indian community so I see them everywhere, near my house, mall, kedai runcit..I love the day I'll go get this pookaris :)

  9. The subject presented so well.
    It was a delight reading this.

  10. I was in Brickfields too, on Thurs and Fri! I saw the same lady, I think! Is this the stall near CIMB? The pookaris are so skillful and so good at their work. I bet their fingers smell great even after washing!

    I voted for you! Ten stars!

  11. Hi everyone, I am sorry for the late reply.

    Rosidah, yes, people need to be appreciated :)) as we take a lot of things for granted.

    adrienne, I know what you mean ! - I tried to slip the string at a few practices , and it was getting tangled!!

    CheaHS@n, Nandri to you too !!

    Secretia, you're welcome and thanks for visiting and voting for me :))

    M. kate, as you know, there's plenty of colours to capture and you do that very well with your camera :)

    Indrani, thanks so much for your lovely comments.

    Chandra Mohan, thanks for visitinga nd your encouraging comments.

    ~Covert_Operations'78~, see, what an impression the lady made without knowing it herself !! That's right - near CIMB. Thanks for the 10 stars - I'm starry -eyed now . LOL!

  12. I love your stories. Got a way from them for a while. Trying to get my house a little cleaner and put away Christmas ornaments.

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