I consider myself a morning person. But, not even the prospect of steaming hot chai motivated me at 4 AM. This was the time my friend in Kolkata decided we needed to rise in order to get to the flower market. This market is the main one that supplies Kolkata for festivals, temples, special occasions or just every day home prayers. As we sleepily piled into our black and yellow cab, the sun was not even willing to get up to greet us.
Just as we arrived in the approximate area of the flower market, we had a bit of hope as the first rays of the morning and an amazing stench pierced our nostrils. I am still not clear how we knew which direction to go, but I stopped breathing out of my nose almost immediately and was awake faster than a strong cup of coffee with
an extra espresso shot could have motivated.
As we walked, we padded softly over previous days, weeks, possibly months of the discarded wreckage from previous markets. The carnage provided an interesting walkway seeping out untold decay – a makeshift garbage dump, if you will.
And as we bobbed over the rise, mass chaos reigned. There were already people actively at work, buying and selling in active exchange. Equal parts discussing flower prices and who could go get the morning chai. Some stalls sold loose flowers; some already strung pieces for decoration; even stalls selling wedding garnishes – fresh hope and happiness ready to bless a new couple.
There was almost no space to maneuver, but plenty of
observing to do – you had to stay awake and alert as you never knew when you would turn to find someone with an overflowing basket of marigolds placed precariously on their head for easier transport.
In a world wind of colors, people and smells, our tiny group of friends soaked up enough culture exhibited in the art of the flower arrangements and the pure primary colors that only marigolds seem to possess. As we headed out of the mélange, our Bengali friend asked, “So when does the market close?” to which he received the response “It’s only just opening – usually gets going in another hour and is open all morning.”
Curse ye damned guide book! A true cultural experience is something that I never want to miss, but extra chai and a nap were obviously our next destination.
(Photos by Ashok Sinha - www.ashoksinha.com)