Sathara Street is soaked in mixed flowery fragrances. The strong aroma of Bangalore Rose blends with the summer sweet scent of white and yellow chrysanthemums. The raw odour of the ornamental flowers basks under the fresh whiff of white jasmines.
The rich cultural heritage of the temple town, Srirangam is enhanced by the hundreds of shops selling flowers in this street. The business starts before dawn at 5 a.m. when tonnes of flowers from the outskirts of Trichy and Bengaluru are brought in every day.
V Kannan (40), who owns a modest garland shop, has been in the profession for 25 years. The business has trickled down to him from his ancestors. “About five years ago, there were less than six shops in this area. Today, this is the largest market for flowers in Trichy,” says Kannan.
V Kannan making a fresh piece of garland
The flower shops here are of two types - wholesale and the smaller stalls. The owners of the wholesale shops purchase the flowers from outside the town and sell them to the smaller stalls. These smaller stalls in turn sell them to the customers, and these businesses do not make as much profit as the wholesale ones.
“Every shop is registered under one of the four groups (sangam) situated in this street. For example, there are 28 shops registered under the Srirangam Pushpa Vyabari Sangam,” says M Rangadurai (45), who is the head of the group.
The smaller shops are heavily dependent on the wholesale ones and their business is affected too. “Wholesale shops have plenty of regular customers who order flowers in bulk and buy tulsi too. The supply for the Srirangam temple is carried out by one of these shops. While we sometimes don’t even make profit, the wholesale shops have a win-win situation just by having a strong base of regular customers,” opines Kannan.
However from December-May, business is booming. Right from the celebration of Pongal - the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, to matrimonial unions, the business blooms in these six months like how Japan blushes pink with Sakura (cherry blossom) flowers in spring.
“Business falls short during the rainy season and huge piles of flowers go to waste. Drastic and sudden decisions like the ban of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes affect us a lot too. One of the major concerns during these hard times is the repayment of the loans that we have taken,” says S Manikandhan (40), another small-scale flower and tulsi seller.
S Manikandhan twists and winds a two-colored garland
Flowers have been a part of Indian culture and literature since a very long time. Folklore speaks of the mythical flower of victory - Vaijayanti, that adorns the neck of Lord Vishnu. Indian author Rabindranath Tagore has written a poem called The Champa Flower, where a child playfully explains to his mother what he would do if he became these flowers for a day. Another Indian writer Sumana Roy, in her book, How I Became a Tree, notes how Indian women are named after delicate flowers and are expected to just bear fruits, when the leaves of the trees do all the work. Even homes in our country have an essential association with flowers.
With all these ways flowers are included in our every day lives, Kannan remarks that the business will never go down completely. He says, “In every season, people die and buy flowers to mourn. We will never go out of business.”