Poor Indians Seeking Joy in Humble Professions

By Tarun Bhalla
Tarun Bhalla
Tarun Bhalla
May 8, 2013 Updated: May 8, 2013

Many Indians living in poverty make their livelihoods through humble trades; selling flowers on the roadside is one such profession.

The life stories of these flower vendors are inspiring and thought provoking, as they continue with their humble professions while facing the financial challenges and pressures.

Varalakshmi, a 35 years old flower vendor from Ulsoor (an old neighborhood in Bangalore city), has been selling flowers over two decades. “I started to come here at the age of ten with my grandmother and eventually I took over the business,” she said.

Her day begins in the wee hours of the morning, when she rides with her husband to the far-off Krishan Raja Market to buy the freshest flowers. The Market was founded in 1928 and is located in the multicultural hub of Bengaluru Pete; it’s the main wholesale market dealing with commodities in Bangalore.

When asked about her earnings, she replied, “It varies. Sometimes I can make as much as 500 rupees ($ 9) a day, other times, I don’t even make enough to buy milk and a proper meal for my family”.

However, her business flourishes during temple festivals. “On those days I usually stay until one or two a.m., but on regular days, I usually go home at around eight or nine in the evening.”

Varalakshmi’s neighbor vendor, Moorthy, may be younger than her, but his father has watched her business grow from its roots.

When asked if he runs a family business, he replied with pride, “Eighty-five years! My great-grandfather set up the business on this exact spot of ground in 1928.”

He too sources his flowers from Krishan Raja Market. His stall is richly adorned with vibrant garlands of jasmine, marigold, roses, orchids, and morning glory flowers.

Indian streets are full of people such as Moorthy and Varalakshmi, who take pride in carrying ahead their ancestral businesses, even if they are no longer greatly profitable. However, a few enterprising individuals have made their business lucrative, thus turning their work into a personal joy.

“I make 2,000 rupees ($36) on an average day. On special days, I can make as much as 6,000 rupees ($110),” said Shekhar, 45, who sells flowers outside a busy temple in Cambridge Layout from last 25 years.

“I never thought of changing my line of work. I like this profession because it allows me to make people happy,” he added.

Shekhar has two children, both studying in a nearby government school. Like any father, Shekhar too wishes his children a happy, successful future. “I do not know what they want to do when they grow up, that you have to ask them! I only want them to be happy,” he chuckled.

Tarun Bhalla