If you have ever been to Church Street in Bangalore, you would have come across this girl. It is extremely hard to miss her, and it is likely that she has pestered you at least once in your life. She was little the first time I saw her, but I happened to come across her recently, and she seems to have grown up now.
She is a fair girl, with a pleasant face. Her hair is usually tied up in two plaits, and whenever I have seen her, she is wearing this woollen pullover over her salwar. Her job is to sell flowers, red roses to be precise. And the first time I happened to see her was four summers ago, when I was walking down Church Street with a girl to whom I hoped to give red roses. And as her profession warrants, she was trying to sell us a red rose.
The worst insult you can give to a street vendor is to turn them into a beggar. Hawking on the streets is respectable business, it is a signal that you are willing to work for your living and don’t want to be shown pity. It is another matter that most street vendors don’t really get this and literally beg you to buy their product. Nevertheless, they do get extremely offended if you were to treat them like you would treat a beggar. That fundamental difference is there.
My companion on that day hadn’t wanted the flowers, not even if I were to gift them to her as a token of love. The flower seller, however, wouldn’t go away. Maybe she had figured that marketing to couples was an extremely profitable strategy, and didn’t want to let go of this opportunity. My companion had proceeded to pull out twenty rupees and give them to the vendor, asking her to keep it and not give her any flowers. Incensed at being treated like a beggar, the poor flower seller had run away. I don’t know if something snapped in me at that moment, but we broke up under inexplicable circumstances a couple of hours later.
Cut the scene forward by three years, three months and three days, and change the venue of the scene to Gandhi Bazaar in South Bangalore. It was a different vendor this time, and she was selling jasmine on strings. It was dark, and her face was dark, so I don’t really think I’ll recognize her if I see her another time. It was late in the evening so her stock of jasmine was almost over, and she was trying to get rid of whatever was left.
I was meeting this girl (not the vendor) for the first time that day, and her reaction was swift. “I’ll buy some for my mum”, she declared and quickly cleared the vendor’s stock. My mind quickly went back to that day on Church Street three years, three months and three days earlier.
Louis, I thought, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.