As we come down along the flight of rusty dilapidated steps to the south eastern side of magnificent Howrah bridge ..we may feel that we have reached in another world crossing the Greek mythological river Lethe of oblivion, instead of the river of Hooghly.
We have landed on a mysterious world of flowers… the idea of the world of flowers surface to our mind how to say a it with flowers, how to feel the flowers ,how to chat with flowers and how to live and love the flowers.
We know that there are fourteen worlds upon universe according to to the Hindu mythology. There are seven upper worlds and seven lower worlds which constitutes the whole universe , earth being the lowest of the the seven upper heavens..so it could be the fifteenth world ,the world flowers ,we may feel.
We should go on braving the incessant flow of the crowd and venture into the world.
A sea of fiery orange marigold strung together forming a huge coir … .l could see the irony of the chain of flowers…the massive chain of marigold can be a chain arresting the movement of the flower vendors and the onlookers .the buyers n porters would hang the garland across their shoulders and walk..
They sit against blue ramshackled sheds..with mountain of flowers in front..of them ..The market itself has become an expressionist painting of a garland where men who live in black and white loosing their colour, and ravishly coloured,deep scented blossoms are tightly strewn together. An anthropomorphic garland,a garland or chain of human beings it is !
That emerges amidst the back drop of overwhelming natural human noise and in due course the manipulations of the market disappears before a visitor.
Flowers in their thousands make a surrealistic sight..as Words Worth says..in Daffodils.
..”Ten thousands saw It a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The breast feeding mother being nudged by elder toddler with ruffled greasy hair..who sits before the hillock of yellow marigold beneath the pipal tree by the eastern end.
The anonymous lean flower vendor who sits on the brim of eastern over bridge smelling deeply the red rose bud again and again as though he has not had such a stuff before..the meditating woman keeping a green cloud of leafs in front of her.
..the youngsters who are resting in make shift plastic sheeted tents which looks as it is likely to fall down appeared as substitutes who take rest in the pavilion of the ground eagerly waiting for their turn,
‘the endless waiting gaze of the crown flower( calotropis)monger..and many more characters with flesh and blood haunt us to the core…though we leave them there..
The tattered rags of Bengali News papers strewn under the cloth and plastic bundles challenges the flowery ambiance a bit..workers enormous hand woven reed trays of flowers on their heads..some.sat lugging gigantic burlap bags full of colourful blossom..
Altogether gives the harmony a surrealistic painting..we feel that we have compacted ourselves to live in the present..not until much later on may we realise the real plight and destiny of these human beings..
Not until much later did we learn that the flower market is extended upto to the ghats .. the market sports the look of an ancient market.. we feel something historical about it.
It was established by Ram Mohan Malik in 1885 and it was burned to ashes in 2008..a decade ago .. It hasn’t undergone any kind of renovation work one would feel so we dont know if it is right or wrong !!!Not more than two thousand people work round the clock in normal days and thousands more during festival seasons…The first flowers in the morning reach this market at three in the morning from nearby localities around Ram Mohan Malik
There are traders dealing with flowers of farmers in East and West Midnapore .There are twenty six thousand farmers in East Midnapore and 18000 farmers in the west.Farmers gather everyday at flower markets in Kolaghat and Panskura.. traders from Howrah buy their produce however.Jasmine is brought from Bangalore.
Many of the vendors belong to women community .They suffer much in the vicious cycle, tearing the special rights they are supposed to enjoy.There exist gender earning differentials as per the study which examine the trade market of flower crops ,the large section of women Almost all female marketing agents
have virtually no land or any valuable assets to offer as collateral.
will fall into debt trap under these informal lenders- money lenders or vendors. They
could be rescued from the grip of these lenders
only through greater supply of formal loan to them as and when necessary.
They sell different varieties of flowers. The flowers are enough if it is for wedding, if it is for a festival , a temple ritual ,for offering to gods or for some social event in auditorium. You can buy every kind of flowers here from crown flower to lotus..
” Tagore’s phool” is a favourite item of the market…it’s a white flower with vibrancy and vigour..Tagore an ardent admirer of flowers expresses his longing
“Supposing I became a Champa flower just for you..
Grew on a branch high up that tree .
The Datura flowers which we consider as poisonous and use as a narcotic drug in Kerala,is cannonised as a favourite item for lord Shiva. My Bengali friend then continued.”During the churning of great Palazhi , the deadly poison came up. Lord Shiva gobbled it to save the humanity from the impending catastrophe .. The Thorny Apple flower or Datura is given to Shiva to detoxify him . That practices still continued in Shiva temples.
The fruits of Bilva, the fruits of thorny Apple are also considered as a revered item here.. Lord Ganesha has a fancy for the bright marigold and while Jasmine is a favourite item of Lord Hanuman.
According to to the devotees Hibiscus flowers that resembles the tongue of Goddess Kali in colour and shape.The enchanting ravishing red colour is a favourite colour of the Bengalis ..Red hibiscus garlands is a favourite item here….
The garlands dark blue butterfly Pea flowers brings to our mind the blue bouquet of Octavia paz.His character says ,
”Why do you want my eyes ?”
”my girlfriend has this whim. she wants a bouquet of blue eyes..” we feel the night as a garden of eyes..
We feel it as a garland of blue eyes..the garland of dark blue butterfly pea flowers..
The vendors set up separate stalls for dealing leaves and fruits alone.. we may find Bilwa leaves and fruits a favourite item of Lord Shiva.
We can also trace tender leaves of mango ,leaves of wild turmeric, perhaps turmeric,leaves of cycas ,plantain leaves and unfamiliar leaves. It’s quite curious to see a collection of very small and tender coconuts kept along with tiny plantain leaves, betel leaves and basil leaves .
If you feel exhausted, you may enjoy a cup of tea ”in Kulhad ”in tiny earthern pot.. There they roam, the peanut selling mongers making their way through the noisy crowd. You may taste them munching a few..
Plant leaves like Areika,Dashnia,Vektoria,Debadaru,Kamini,Bel are used in decorative purposes in different occasions like marriage ceremony,festivals,for making flower bouquets etc.
If you have stayed in the market ,dipping yourself in the ocean of of the smell , definitely the flowers might have slightly pushed to you into a state of trance.
John keats says
” A drowsy numbness
My sense as though hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the dream …..”
We are get lost in between dream and reality.
Flowers are exported to West Asia and Europe.Flower exporting centres should be established in Kolkata. More than two thousand flower growers visit the stalls everyday to sell their blooms ,number rising five thousand during festival seasons.
.Not until much later did we learn that the flower market is extended upto the banks
of Hooghly river. Had we realised earlier ,we would have spared some more time to spend there..
.The numbness we feel as the”apple picker ”of of Robert frost . We feel whatever it may be, it is a sensory experience, an amazing sensory experience that we will be lost in the fragrance of flowers and their ravishing colours..
The romantic escaping tendency is with you, the escaping tendency that you may feel but on the other hand the bustle of the crowd may pull you back to earth..
not until much later did we realise that the grey foot track has turned into a frayed edged torn carpet of trampled flowers. You have to cut your way through that again,to the outside world.. a flower market that blooms in Howrah or in our inward world.!!?