Vidhya Zierlein Chennai India
Flower of the flock
A thundering voice boomed from the landing in front of the lift. The kind of voice that demands your attention. Behind that big voice is an unassuming flower retailer, Vasanthi, who delivers flowers door to door. We all know that the buses have stopped plying due to the lockdown. But this has not deterred Vasanthi’s enthusiasm or weakened her resolve to carry on her business. In this time of social distancing, she cycles from Vyasarpadi to Koyambedu market, purchases the flowers and cycles all the way back. She then strings the flowers together and delivers them door to door in Ayanavaram to her regular customers. In addition at present she is serving additional customers during the lockdown. She cycles approximately 30 km each day. Just writing about her ordeal makes me feel exhausted.
Flowers have the power to bring people so much joy. An article from Texas A&M’s Ellison Chair in International Floriculture says “Having flowers around the home and office greatly improves people’s moods and reduces the likelihood of stress-related depression.” In addition, the fact that somebody cares enough to take the trouble to get the flowers to their door is enough for her customers to break out into a huge smile. Vasanthi describes her daily ordeal but always with a smile and often punctuated by her booming laughter. Her lively spirit is infectious. You cannot walk away from interacting with her without being touched or moved in some deep way.
It’s amazing how similar we are when we scratch the surface. She could be any of my friends who are parents. With this realization, suddenly I could relate to her, even though she is younger, because just like my friends she has the same dreams and aspirations for herself and her daughter. She is proud that she is sending her to a good school. Like my friends she works hard for her family. She has a tight schedule. She works two jobs. She has to juggle work and home to excel in both domains. She has to optimize her work hours so she can be there for her daughter. And she does all this being a single mom.
In these times of social distancing, people like Vasanthi bring us so much joy by just being who they really are. Her example shines forth when we are squinting our eyes trying to see how to make sense of the reality around us. I think in some ways social distancing has brought us emotional closeness from where we least expect it. Vasanthi’s story is a prime example of that.
Vasanthi in her cycle delivers flowers to her customers with a huge smile on her face. • Vidhya Zierlein