If thou of fortune be bereft
and of thine earthly store have left
two loaves, sell one and with the dole
feed hyacinths to the soul.
These beautiful lines were written by Sir Alexander Clegg…Ever since these words crossed my eyes, I have been marveling at their depth. These lines hold a profound truth: Man cannot sustain life just with bread.
This morning, when I visited the Ghazipur Pushp Mandi (Ghazipur Flower Market, East Delhi, India), I just could not contain my excitement on finally understanding his words… After carefully navigating my way through little pools of water filled with squishy mud, I found myself in the most delightful of places. Spread all around me were flowers of virtually all imaginable (and unimaginable) colors, varieties, shapes…
As the early morning breeze caressed my cheeks, the flowers lured me, teased me with their vibrant colors and sensuous fragrances. As I walked by, they seemed to call out to me and I often ended up touching them, looking at them, much to the curiosity of the vendors. From one corner, the carnations looked at me sleepily, from their huddled masses… from the other the orchids, in all their sophistication; lay in neat piles, talking in soft voices. The shy lilies hid their beauty behind closed buds…
As if these were not enough to make me high on flowers… there were gerberas, nodding their acknowledgement to me, tulips sending me cute kisses, the roses dressed up in their best, the genda reminding me of that time around New Year when they’d adorned my home… a host of exotic flowers, which spoke to me in languages unknown… I don’t even know their names… I was just wandering through this wonderland with the dazed eyes of an awestruck admirer.
It was then that I realized the importance of beauty in our life. Imagine a dreary life… where you eat, work and sleep… where there is no joy, no surprises… a world without flowers… it will essentially be a world without smiles. Will we be able to live for long? For one like me… who goes berserk when she sees a flower in full bloom… such a life is hard to imagine. Beauty gives us happiness. And what is life if you’re not happy?
In this back-breaking competition, a thing of beauty is really rare. It is precious. As Wordsworth said, they remain with us long after we have seen them. They come back to us at times we expect them the least…at times when we’re alone, lonely or sad… they cheer us up and dance with us to the tune of life… So what if they didn’t have hyacinths today. If I have two pennies, I’ll spend one on bread, the other on a lily (my favourite).
P.S. This Mandi, which is my private ‘soothe-my-soul land’, was established in 2011 in place of the existing Mandis at Connaught Place, Mehrauli and Fatehpuri. The government aimed to give the licensed flower vendors a proper place, with a roof over their head, a cold storage and better facilities, where they could trade for a longer time. If you were to google this particular market, you’ll only find articles expressing discontent. There were protests against the increased costs incurred owing to the shift. There was a lot of talk of cultural heritage being lost, talk of inconvenience to both, the buyers and the sellers.
But the situation isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Not only is the space big, luxurious as compared to the other markets, it is relatively clean as well (never mind the mud pools… blame it on the torrent last night). If the legal vendors, numbering close to 400, do brisk business inside, their illegal counterparts, selling everything from flowers to sponges make money outside. True, this area is on the periphery of the city, but I found ample auto-rickshaws willing to take me to my destination. Do visit the Mandi… it is definitely worth your time.