The day started well with a sight like this:
I am in Kolkata gaping at the iconic Howrah Bridge. The gleaming bridge stretches across the Hooghly river connecting the twin cities Howrah and Kolkata. It looks like a giant mythical creature with tiny humans and vehicles in its belly.
Two days is ridiculously inadequate to see the old capital of India but I am very excited. My host, a dear friend who is a long-term resident of Kolkata, suggested a heritage walk and here we are at the Jagannath ghat waiting for the guide. Expecting a large group of tourists I was pleasantly surprised to find just the two of us with Navpreet, the vivacious host of FunOnStreets. After the brief introduction, she led us down the ghat which was already a hub of activities at 7 a.m: morning ablutions, prayers, wrestling practice, and photo shoots.
From the ghat we walked to the Flower Market, supposed to be the largest wholesale market of its kind in India.
The first sight of the narrow lanes filled with flowers and people is overwhelming. The bustling market has been operating for the last 125 years. Truckloads of flowers start coming as early as 4 a.m from all over West Bengal and the frenetic activities go on till late. The whole atmosphere is colorful and chaotic. We picked our way through the petal strewn path, careful not to collide with the milling crowd.
Flowers have always been an integral part of Indian festivals, weddings, and temple rituals. Here you can see a staggering variety of flowers and leaves of different colors, textures, and designs. Some are exclusively reserved for the temples; I didn’t know that Gods also have their favourite flowers!
Over 250 stalls line the alleyway. Despite the shabby exterior, they make a decent income which goes up considerably during festival and wedding seasons. Navpreet kept us engaged with interesting trivia.
There are people everywhere: vendors, buyers, porters, and tourists. You just got to go with the flow and take in as much as you can.
Men outnumber women; they lug their colorful, fragrant merchandise with ease and grace.
Wonder why none of the ladies have worn flowers in their hair.
Marigold flowers are the most in demand. The bright yellow and orange blooms are visible all over the place:
I see a giant floral dump; some flowers look too fresh to be discarded.
Temples and religious rituals require a fresh batch of flowers every day so all the unsold wares end up in the dump. I wish the authorities do something about it. There is a Kanpur based startup ‘HelpUsGreen’ which recycle floral waste into incense sticks and vermicompost. Anybody listening?
It will be exciting to spend an entire day in this market but we have to catch a ferry, so let me stop and smell the roses/ marigolds.