before you reach her, that the basket she is carrying has flowers in it. Minutes later she can be seen going to almost every doorstep of that locality, giving out a shout to announce her arrival. Her voice pulls out the house owner who obediently comes and takes the flowers.
The scene may appear to be just run-of-the-mill, something that can be seen on any street of a city; but, there is something remarkable about this woman who has been selling flowers in the J.P.Nagar area
of Mysore for the past past 6-7 years. Mahadevamma is no ordinary florist. She is a woman with lot of gumption, courage, and honesty.
We have innumerable examples of women burning in the cauldron of poverty, stewing in life’s disappointments and frustrations, nevertheless displaying the courage and guts to ward off all the bitterness and build a life that can serve as chapters in textbooks. One need not have to be highly educated or excelled in academics to do this. Mahadevamma is one such lady, who earns her daily bread by selling flowers. Well, you may ask what is so special about her business; enough florists are there in almost every city. The answer is the approach she has adopted in selling. While other florists sell flowers sitting whole day in the corner of a city center or in front of temples, she makes more money than them by investing just half a day in business. Entering flower business was not a fortunate stroke of serendipity to Mahadevamma, nor was it her family business. The difficult circumstances in life and the hardships she had go through in raising her children made her a florist with a streak of entrepreneurship.
Mahadevamma is a 38-year-old lady residing in a remote village of Nanjangud (taluq) , 30 kms from Mysore city. She was married to a mason when she was as young as 14 years. The starry- eyed girl entered her new phase of life with numerous dreams. But by the time she found out that her husband was a drunkard, irresponsible and insensitive person, she already had 2 daughters and was pregnant with third kid. Drunkard husbands battering their wives is rife in her societal class the class of society she belongs. So she did not bother much about it. But the real trouble came when her husband started shirking from work and squandering away all the money Mahadevamma had saved on gambling and alcohol. He would thrash her inhumanely whenever she pleaded him to stop. With no one from her family, including her parents, to provide any financial help, it was imperative for her to go out and work. It was no time to sit and sob. To quench the hunger of the growing kids, to provide them with a frugal meal everyday, she had to earn. She decided to work in a nearby hotel. She joined there as a cook. It was a small, thatched hut made into a hotel. Though small, the hotel always bustled with customers, as it was located in a prime location of the village. She had to start her work before dawn and prepare tea, coffee, and the breakfast had to be ready before people arrived to the bus stand next to the hotel to catch early morning bus to Mysore and other cities. She did not have the luxury of mixers, grinders and other modern equipment in that hotel. All the grinding, kneading, cleaning, rolling work had to be done manually. The hotel owner being cunning, miserly crook did not want any other helpers in the hotel. She had to cook non-stop sitting in front of a kerosene stove from dawn to dusk, only to be paid peanuts. Years of ceaseless work took a toll on her health. She had searing pain in her knees and joints, which doctors diagnosed as arthritis. Unable to move even an inch from where she laid, she spent awful days and nights looking at the naked, diseased tree that was so symbolic of her from the window of her home. Her mind was brimming with questions about her future, her two daughters’ future, and the ways of earning livelihood. Because she grew up in a milieu where unquestioning acceptance of one’s destiny was the norm, because there was no real alternative, Mahadevamma bore all this pain with stoic resignation. However, she could not afford to lavishly take rest sleeping all the day. All the savings were already spent on the medicines and lying on the bed only made the condition worse. When she came up with this idea of selling flowers, she mustered all her strength and got out of the house. It was not long before she found out that the traditional way of selling flowers would not be sufficient for her family. So, she adopted this new approach. Here is a quick summary of her daily routine.
Mahadevamma wakes up early in the morning to buy fresh jasmine, kanakaambara, marle, kaakada, sampige, and other flowers from the market in Nanjangud. Later she distributes them to 8 different ladies in her neighbourhood who start tying them into beautiful garlands.
Mahadevamma has outsourced this job to others to whom she pays a part of her profit. Meanwhile, she comes back home to finish other household chores. Neither her drunkard husband nor her lazy son has ever helped her in her flower business or in the kitchen. After finishing all the cleaning, cooking, and washing work at home, she collects the tied flowers from the ladies and brings them to Mysore city by evening train. She has more than 70 regular customers in Mysore. She goes to each of these homes and delivers their favourite flowers to their doorstep. As a shrewd florist, she makes considerable business by selling in front of wedding halls and temples on festivals and other special days. If it gets dark by the time she finishes distributing the flowers she sleeps in one of her customers’ houses, who has been generous enough to provide her with a warm place to sleep. She wakes up early to catch the train back to her village to fetch flowers for her next day business and she is back into her brisk schedule.
Mahadevamma has come a long way. She has been in this business for a little less than 7 years now. She is not only feeding her own family but has also been a source of income for eight other families. With
a turnover of 25-30 thousand Rs, she pays 600-700 Rs every month
to each of those eight ladies who tie garlands for her and makes a consistent profit of 7-8 thousand Rs per month. The flower business
has given her enough money to get her 2 daughters married. She is
no university-graduate feminist who talks of women empowerment and domestic violence; nonetheless, has empowered eight families in her neighbourhood by providing them means to earn money by utilizing their spare time. The payment she makes them may be small, but it is by no means negligible.
All by herself she has built a life worth living, a self-propelled journey that has taught her to be diligent and honest. She has an inner compass to tell her what is right and what is wrong. Her daughters are leading a good life and she is happy about it. She is content with whatever she has got. She never forgets to go to Chamundeshwari temple where she offers a garland everyday to the goddess as a token of her love and gratitude. She is so committed and energetic that she cheerfully says “ I want to work till the last day of my life”.
Women like Mahadevamma have time and again proved the enormous potential women have in them. Mahadevamma is just one example. There are more such examples around us, where in women from different walks of life have shown their true mettle and exhibited entrepreneurial spirit, setting examples to many others who are in similar distress.