Do you know those moments in a conversation when someone cracks a lame joke? Turns out that not all those jokes are as lame as we think!
India is a religious country, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Religion is good. Religion instils faith, gives birth to festivals, and fosters a sense of community strength. But more than anything else, in India, religion is responsible for at least half of the national floral business.
There’s no prize for guessing the benefactor of the other half – Seema aunty and co. of course! P.S. If you did not get that, it’s high time that you get yourself some quality Netflix time!
I am sure you’ve noticed how indispensable flowers are in most Indian religions. Necessity aside, we also seem to have set a natural hierarchy for flowers based on varying degrees of pious activities. Case in point – the hibiscus is reserved for Lord Ganesha, the jasmine is reserved for any of the female deities, while the marigold is an all-purpose flower that can be offered, adorned, thrown, or used as a not-so-discreet weapon by Bhai in Bollywood movies from the ’90s!
Didi ka dewar was truly deewana! Even a novice slinger knows the efficacy of walnuts over marigolds as the weapon of choice.
Anyway, why do we exhibit this inexplicable reverence for some flowers over others? It’s not as if Lord Vishnu himself apparated in front of our ancestors and handed them a ‘commandment of flowers’.
Pluck anything that’s remotely red, the offering must go to a non-human head…The flower that smells like a lady, must be given to a cultured maid…Any other case outside the two, just throw them a fat marigold instead…Uhh… say what now Lord Vishnu?Damn, I think we lost reception.Never mind, I don’t think he had a fourth rhyme there…Wait, what did he mean by ‘smells like a lady?’ Let me go ask Jasmine…
Don’t even get me started on the delicates! No one uses roses, tulips, chrysanthemums and lilies for such mundane tasks. These are the explicit ‘relationship’/’social conduct’ flowers. Visiting someone in the hospital? Offer them some tulips. Attending a housewarming party? Carry a bunch of daisies. Bending down on one knee? You better have a ring!… and probably a rose or two.
And then again, we have orchids, the franchise equivalent of hotel and apartment decor. So much so that India has an entire chain of boutique hotels called The Orchid. Yes, it’s that common.
So, every time I pass the florist near my workplace, I wonder, “How did we arrive at this countrywide notion of classifying flowers based on utility?”
I blame this on the romanticism of writers and poets. Some dude in France thought that the rose symbolized the humane life force of a beast, and only true love could help him shed his animal form. I could argue that the lotus would have been an equally appropriate flower for the story! If only Beauty and The Beast was first written in India!
Well, I do not disagree that the rose is an exquisite flower. The sheer range of colours and hues can put 4K televisions to shame. The petals of the rose intertwine most delicately and subtly, almost akin to a couple that is new to the prospect of a life together. The fragrance is strong enough for it to be officially recognized as a flavour palette!
But, having stayed in India, where the lotus is almost considered a sacred flower, – – cough – -, some people would argue AGAINST the rose being the undisputed symbol of love!
The lotus is every bit as beautiful and has the whole rags-to-riches story down to the letter. I am obviously referring to the fact that it grows in the muckiest marshes and muddiest ponds on the face of the earth! It also has a captivating symmetry in its structure that mirrors the environment without pretence. The fact that it floats serenely on ponds only adds to the intrigue regarding what’s underneath the surface.
But no! No one offers their partner a lotus while proclaiming love, just as no one throws a bunch of tulips at the bride and groom during the merry-go-round at an Indian wedding.
And this is only because culture and tradition have conditioned our minds to think in a certain direction. Apparently, Racism and elitism are not reserved for humans alone. Flowers have to bear the fallouts of our man-made customs in equal measure.
We comment on the issue of black and white, yet a white rose symbolizes peace and a red symbolizes love? Don’t even get me started on the valentine shenanigan that is rose day! We caress a vase of tulips like a newborn baby, but step on hundreds of marigold flowers lying around at the foot of a marble deity? But God forbid, if someone deliberately insults one of those flowers on social media, half the city will be out on the streets, lighting up molotovs!
And what gives any of US, the right to treat ANY flower differently? Absolutely nothing, apart from the fact that we have enough motor skills to pluck them against their will.
Some food for thought – even animals can pluck, but you don’t see them exchanging roses on Saturday nights!
So the next time you find yourself at a florist’s, and you want to pick a bunch of flowers for a pretty woman, just pick the ones that call out to you. Not because it’s the right flower, or ‘ it’s right for the occasion’, but because it’s right for her…
Generally speaking, I am not even a remote admirer of anything that’s floral! So, why this post?
You see, there was a moment in a conversation when someone cracked a joke, and while it sounded lame then, in hindsight it really wasn’t.
Because though the joke was about ‘how some flowers are thrown while others are given’, the facts were real and so is the problem!