In the middle of a cold, wet, gray European spring day, I miss the colourful, fragrant flower garlands from India.
When I was living in Mysore, I used to buy flowers on most days of the week from an old lady who sat with her baskets of fresh flowers outside the local supermarket: jasmine, sometimes marigold, sometimes a lonely red rose with the orange and white garlands. They came wrapped in a leaf that I think was a cabbage leaf (easily recycled: just throw it out of your window and a passing cow will eat it). If I sometimes did not see her in the morning and ended up buying flowers from someone else, when I saw her later on the same day she looked so sad and upset that I would have to go and buy more flowers from her just because I was feeling guilty.
Some of the flowers, especially jasmine flowers, had such a strong scent that I could never keep them in the bedroom, even though I wanted to wrap them around the bedroom mirror and look at them all the time. I used to decorate the Ganesha statue in the puja room, and even tried to tie them into my hair like women do especially in South India. I never looked as graceful as Indian ladies with their shiny black hair, freshly massaged with coconut oil.
The garlands did not last long, of course: by the evening most of the flowers died. But just like the cabbage leaf they were wrapped in, the flowers are recyclable waste and free food for local cows, goats and other animals who roam the streets of India and stopped by our front door every day to eat whatever they could find.
The Devaraja Market in the centre of Mysore was a good place to go for flowers: in the flower sellers’ corner baskets were filled with yellow, orange and white freshly cut blossoms. We could use some of those flowers here in Europe, especially when it’s a gray day and everyone outside is wearing black.
Photo of women with flowers in their hair: McKay Savage