'The Fisherman' *

Flowers in rainy season in Imphal
Flowers in rainy season in Imphal :: Pix - Jinendra Maibam

I recently befriended this florist who runs a small shop at the street corner about a hundred metres from our office building. He is unusually well-dressed for his profession, even over-dressed sometimes. No, I'm not saying florists aren't suppose to dress well but a white suit with shiny dress shoes and a red tie on a Friday is a little too gaudy. Well, I'm not judging or commenting on his choice of clothes but, you know, it sure is interesting. I still don't know his name but he knows mine.

This morning, when I walked past his shop, he called out my name in his own special usual musical way and said, "Hello, I like your tie. Where did you buy it from? It looks expensive."

"Oh thank you my friend." I said and added, "It's not costly like you think though. Rs. 150 from a street-side stall at M.G. Road right next to the Metro station."

"Ah really? I'll buy one this Sunday then." He grinned and I could see this twinkle of excitement in his eyes, his gold tooth flashing in the morning light. It's exactly the same look you would see in a high-school boy's eyes who has just been sanctioned his weekly allowance of Rs. 100 by his middle-class parents, and now been asked to buy anything he wishes to with that money. When I was given my first official pocket money back in school, I remember I went and bought myself a comic book. From the bookshop, I ran back home like a dog with firecrackers tied to its tail and hastily put it in my treasure chest.

"Sure. Do. We could probably pose for a photograph together wearing the same tie then." I joked.

Even something as meaningless as the idea of getting a picture taken with me is enough to excite this man.

"Ah really?" His eyes shown again. "Let's do it now! Come on." He promptly took out his mobile phone, stood next to me and 'Click!', my first photograph with a professional flower dealer was taken.

We aren't friends because I buy flowers from him. We don't even get the time to talk that much either but we're somehow pretty good friends. I'm in no way a customer for him - not even potential because he knows I'll never have the need to ever buy flowers. Why we're friends, I'll never know.

"Hey hang on. I'll go grab a coffee. Two minutes yeah? You look at that photo and admire yourself for a bit. I'll be back." I said.

When I returned from the coffee bar, I found him on a short ladder spraying water on his flowers.

"Ah really? You're back so quick." He said.

I took my first sip and set the large paper cup on his small collapsible plastic desk.

"So tell me a bit about this flower business of yours. Where do you get these beauties from?" I inquired just to spark some conversation before heading back to my desk and my boring ugly laptop.

He stepped down from his ladder, looked at me and smiled. "Why do rich people like you need to know about selling flowers?"

"Oh bloody hell! No. I'm not rich. I can't even afford a branded tie." I told him.

But he told me a lot about flowers.

He explained, "They come from farms and gardens in villages and small towns around the city. Some of them are brought here in cargo flights from other states."

"And how much do you buy them for?" I got a little curious.

"Well, it depends. These red roses, I buy them for about five rupees apiece and those tulips they are a little more expensive: seven rupees."

"Wow! You thief!" I said, "You buy a rose for five bucks and sell it to people for twenty-five! Now, who's the rich man?"

He smiled and said, "Let me explain."

I exclaimed, "Oh! Please enlighten me! And so I don't get confused let's just talk about those pretty white lilies up there. Tell me their story - where they come from, how they arrive here, how much you buy them for etc. so I'll get an idea of this racket of yours."

He smiled and showed me his gold tooth again and in a more businessman-like tone, he elaborated.

"Lilies sell quickly. It's a good thing because they get spoilt quickly. I buy them before sunrise from a wholesaler. He probably gets them from some other dealer who has connections with the actual growers who live somewhere else. I get a bunch of fifteen for fifty rupees."

"I see. Now, why do you sell it at such an inflated price to people?" I inquired.

"Well, you see, I have to pay for everything: transportation, maintenance - need to keep them looking fresh you see, then comes rent for this shop, bills for the electricity I use here, telephone calls to people for home and office deliveries and a lot of other expenses. So, if I don't sell them at this price, I'll starve."

I looked at him said, "Hmmm. Now that makes sense but do you really like doing this flower business?"

"I don't have a choice. I have to do this. But, I do love flowers. I like the way they can attract people. Their fragrance, their elegance, their grace, their beauty, their design. They don't belong to anyone; they belong to everyone. You can't own a flower forever. They'll wilt in your hands very quickly no matter how much you try to maintain them. They are fragile that's why I keep them in this air-conditioned shop protected from the elements. They are absolutely useless yet people like them." I giggled after saying that.

I was starting to feel impressed with this man.

He went on, "Photographers like to take pictures of them for greeting cards and poets like to look at them and caress them for a while and write about them. People do make money out of them you know. Other people like to pose with them. Some even wear them on their hair and pin them on their clothes. And I sell them so I know they don't last and I don't own them though I love them. I've handled many flowers. I know how they are and what they are."

I was listening to him very keenly when a lady suddenly came and asked him, "Excuse me. How much for that bunch of lilies? The whole bunch."

"Three hundred for ten ma'am. Would you like to see them?" He responded politely.

"No no. I'd like to take the whole bunch. They look quite fresh." The lady said.

"Oh yes ma'am. They're farm fresh. Just cut and brought in this morning just a few hours ago. No problems. Please check each of them." He said that and fetched his ladder to get the flowers for the lady.

I stood there watching him as he carefully brought the pink plastic bucket down from the shelf and handed it to his customer.

The lady picked out each flower from the bucket, inspected the petals, leaves and stalks for signs of damaged and imperfection. After a good long while, satisfied with her precision and expertise in flower selection skills, she said, "This is good quality stuff. I'll take everything, except this one", and left one single lily in the bucket. "It has a blemish here."

"Ok no problems ma'am. I'll wrap them up right away. What paper colour would you like, and ribbon?" he smiled and asked.

"Oh whatever you like. You're an expert. But please make it quick." The lady answered.

In five minutes, it was ready. He had arranged the lilies in a nice bouquet complete with a nice pink ribbon tied around it.

"Here you go ma'am. That will be four hundred rupees please after a fifteen percent discount specially for you."

The woman handed him the money, thanked him with a smile and left.

As he was putting the money in his cash counter, I asked him, "So what happens to that single lily there?"

"Well, some girl might just come and buy it. If no ones like it, I'll have to throw it in the evening along with the others that develop blemishes. I told you, they don't last long. Within a few hours, it already got a blemish. Very fragile stuff. Practically useless stuff. Nothing like the coconut tree growing in our backyard." He laughed. I looked at my watch and almost lost consciousness - I had a meeting in five minutes and I wasn't prepared.

I was so into the conversation even the coffee I bought had been there on his desk still full but cold. I had to throw it away.

"Hey, nice talking to you man. I'll see you soon." I said and rushed back to my desk.

After several gruesome hours of conference calls and meetings, I came out for coffee again - this time with a determination to actually drink one whole cup. I wanted to sit with my friend and talk for a while again but I was scared I'd miss my meetings so I avoided him, "Hello there, how's business? I just stepped out for a quick caffeine shot. Talk to you later."

"Oh hey. It's going good. See? No more roses." He smiled with a hint of pride in his eyes.

I noticed the blemished lily was still there, alone but still beautiful and proud in its pretty pink bucket.

In the evening, I came out of the office after work and as I reached the street corner, a few meters away from the florist's shop, by the roadside, near a streetlamp, there was the white lily lying dead. As I got closer, I realised a speeding car had just run over it and left it bleeding green and white. I could do nothing.

I drove for a few kilometers towards home and then I don't quite recall why I did this - I pulled the car up and took out my mobile phone. Then I quickly browsed to my favorite photo of the girl I love and kissed her lips.

Then I deleted the picture.

I got home and as usual I took my car keys and my mobile out of my pocket and placed them on my bedside table. My bedroom was already quite bright but as always, I switched my reading lights on too, and that's when I noticed something I didn't quite like.

I realised my lips had left a dirty stain on my phone's screen around the area where her lips were once displayed - once when my phone had an image of her.

* 'The Fisherman' wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at this Blog here This article was posted on October 05, 2012.

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