Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Diligent Flower Lady

This week, heavy rains have lashed Chennai, the city where my parents live. All the reservoirs in the state of Tamil Nadu are overflowing, and rice paddy fields have been submerged in the flood. A lot of other regular activity has been suspended, due to the rains.

Despite the rain, the old lady who delivers flowers showed up in the morning. Each day, my mother buys a small string of marigolds or jasmine from her. (It is common in India to adorn pictures and statues of gods as part of daily prayers.)

The flower seller apologized to my mother and said that she wouldn’t be able to show up tomorrow because of the rains. Before leaving, she gave my mother some extra flowers for the next day.

"I am surprised that she made it in this weather," I told my mother.
"She must have bought the loose flowers yesterday," my mother explained. "If she doesn't deliver them, the flowers will wilt and she won't get paid. That's why even in this pouring rain, she's going from house to house delivering the flowers."

I learned that this lady used her meager capital to buy loose flowers. At night, she wove them into long strands and cut them into small strings. The next day she personally delivered them to each customer's home.

"What do you pay her?" I asked.
"Two rupees daily."

For her efforts in home-delivering fresh flowers seven days a week, this flower lady earned Rs 60 from each customer. That is less than US $1.35 per month.