Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

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Fiction Happy Indigenous

Muthu Karuppan alias Muthu was unhappy as his father declined to render monitory assistance. Muthu wanted Rs 15000/- His father was angry because instead of getting multiple times of 15000/- from his wife’s side as dowry, his stupid son married a girl from a poor family without a paisa in the name of dowry. Now he was begging from others for assistance. A man without any common sense! The worst thing ever to happen was that the new bride was a dumb girl. For that very reason Muthu should have demanded lakhs of rupees as compensation. But on the contrary, Muthu claimed himself to be an ideal groom and doomed his future forever. Till date he did not regret his action. His marriage took place recently just a month ago.

Muthu’s mother also was very much annoyed. After all a dumb girl had to be her daughter-in-law! She disliked the very sight of that girl. The emotional drama was still vivid in their memory. Muthu never consulted anyone, nor he sought any permission from anyone. Suddenly one fine morning Muthu was standing at the doorsteps with his wife. Both were decked up in traditional dresses and fresh floral garlands adorning them. Muthu’s mother was shocked and stood stunned for a minute. Then immediately collecting herself, she slammed the door on the couple, thus conveying her disapproval. Muthu could hear her loud cries. His father also joined her in the shouting. Muthu was prepared for that. Then too he ventured. They both, the husband-wife duo, waited for the parents to come to senses. His sister, Sheela, was different. He wanted to take the couple in. But she dared not do anything against her parents’ wishes. She was trying to console her parents and was pleading them to accept the newly-wed couple.

“Whatever has happened has happened, Amma. He is your son. It is his life. Please let him in. He is starting a new life. He has come to take your blessings. You may or may not forgive him. But he is your blood, part of our family. Accept the girl also. We don’t need her to rain curses on us. If you don’t have the mind to greet him you need not do it. It is okay. At least allow me to do that.”

Her parents without a word, went inside. Sheela took that as a signal for her. She opened the door with holy and auspicious objects in a decorated plated and asked her brother and sister-in-law to step in. She took the hands of the bride and led her inside. She asked for her name. Muthu only answered. Only then she knew the girl was a dumb one. A wave of sympathy crept in. A namesake feast was prepared, knowing fully well her parents would neither approve nor appreciate.

Sheela sat with them and enquired how and why they got married suddenly and secretly. Muthu said he met his wife Ilavarasi at his friend’s floral shop. She was making garlands for temples and marriages. Her deft hands had some super magical powers in creating them. Then itself he decided she must be encouraged. Not many women come to do this type of floral work. Most women do floral strings. Rarely a woman did these thick garlands. He gathered information about her. Then he learnt she was dumb. But God had compensated her voice with this unique talent.

Muthu wondered. Marriage was a distant dream for normal girls and for a dumb girl? Obviously, it would never happen. Then itself he decided he must do something. Then it struck him.

“Why not I marry her?”           

He knew his parents would never agree to such high-fi thoughts. He contacted the parents of the dumb girl and with their consent, the marriage was performed at the same temple where she was regularly supplying the garlands.

As soon as the marriage was over, he brought her home. On the way he informed her and also warned her about the cold reception she would get. In case things turned sour, he said that they would go to her parents and be with them till things cooled down at his place. Goodluck on him! It did not go that far.

Sheela wanted to know about their future.

“How are you going to maintain your family? You don’t have a steady income. Now you are not a single man either. Appa also is not going to support you. I am worried. You could have waited at least till you were properly employed.”

He replied. “Sheela, I am happy that you are so concerned about us. I am going to be self-employed. I want to set up a floral shop with Ilavarasi as partner cum employee. I want to tap her talents. I shall employ some more women and get them also trained in making decorative flower garlands. My only problem is immediately I need some money to start with. I dare not ask Appa nor Amma. May be, I have to depend on friends only. The earlier I start the better it will be.”

Ilavarasi through her sign language told him to approach her employer. Muthu did not like to ask him. That man would be looking at Muthu as his rival and his business prospects were bound to be affected. As it is, he had already usurped Ilavarasi from his shop which itself would be a loss for him. Hence, Muthu depended on his friends and went on a spree for mobilising funds for his venture. In that context only, he asked his father for 15000/- and listened to all brickbats.

Somehow, he mobilised partial amount and for balance, he did not know what to do. Again, Ilavarasi suggested to meet her ex- employer. Now it was only for the shortfall. Reluctantly, Muthu approached. To his utter surprise, he readily obliged.

“When you have done a great thing of marrying a dumb girl, my gesture to support you is just nominal. Further, until such time you set up your shop, let her continue in my shop and carry on her work. After all, even I need time to get a replacement.”

Muthu was taken aback. So far, he had been used to being rejected at every step. Now there was one who was readily stretching his hand. He deliberately dismissed his instant reaction of doubting any ulterior motive of that good guy coming forward to help him.

Having crossed the main hurdle, he set his dream shop into motion. In a week’s time his shop was ready. He named it after Sheela. She was the one still nurturing his links with his parents and helping Ilavarasi also to get accustomed to them. On an auspicious day, he invited quite a few people, mainly those who helped him for the inauguration. Ilavarasi wanted the shop to be opened by the holy hands of temple priest. It was done accordingly. The priest also blessed them saying let the business flourish and let there be tremendous sale of wedding garlands. Wedding garlands were a matter of good omen and would be bought only from such shops which were recognised for prosperity and longevity of the weddings. Those words sounded like wedding bells to Muthu and fondly nursed a hope that let the priest’s words come true and his sister Sheela be married at the earliest.

Things were moving fast. Slowly ‘Sheela Floral Shop’ garnered business. Ilavarasi wanted additional hands to cope up with increasing demands. Muthu asked Sheela also to join them. But Sheela was not interested. Then Ilavarasi told Muthu to open an adjoining boutique shop and sell floral bouquets. It was in-keeping with the modern trends and would draw ultra- mod crowd and fetch them a regular handsome income. Sheela was thrilled by that idea. She had least hesitation in dealing with requirements of rich modern upper-class society. She could get to meet rich people.

Ilavarasi had one more option in mind. But she did not dare to say that. First, she wanted additional hands for garland making and floral strings. Once that was met, then she asked Muthu to assess their income and expenditure accounts and find out how much they owed and to whom. “Yes. I still need quite a few thousands to clear all dues. Though business had picked up, expenditure also shot up. For setting up Boutique shop for Sheela I needed to spend a lot on decorations. That took away what we had earned earlier. Look at Sheela now! How she pulled father also into this! He who refused to give me a paisa, was giving her whatever she needs now. Isn’t that amazing?”

Ilavarasi pointed out at one thing. She gestured into saying that she noticed that one small bouquet was being sent from the shop on a daily basis to one particular address. She wanted Muthu to trace out that secret and collect details.

“You are right Ila. Sheela was sending floral bouquet to your previous employer, the same person, my helper cum financier. I think, there is something brewing between them. Let me warn Appa and Amma. Or else they will be for one more shock which I don’t want. This time, they can’t stand it.”

Ilavarasi smiled and showed the wedding garlands and also showed the priest’s inauguration photo. She wanted to say that what priest said on that day was turning true now. Then she turned to the account sheet and gestured, “First clear his dues. Then you can freely talk to him about wedding proposal.”

He was stuck up there in that issue. How to augment his income was his main worry. She looked at her. She again came up with another idea, though she very well knew that it would not be welcomed. He insisted. She then drew a diagram of wreath and asked to open one more shop exclusively for it. Wreath was never considered as a good omen as it was always used for unholy purposes. The very name was shunned by all floral people. But Ilavarasi wanted that also to be a part of their undertaking. While garlands, string of flowers and bouquets were always kept readily available in shops, wreaths were never kept ready for anytime-takeaway. She advised Muthu to place a note on the shop window that wreaths would be prepared and made available on demand.

 Muthu hesitated. Ilavarasi insisted. Just like bouquets were catching up, even wreaths were becoming part of modern trends. Apart from deaths, people visiting graves and on anniversaries of their beloved forefathers, demand for these wreaths were steadily increasing. She told him to accept wreathes as garlands of mourning and not as a symbol of very death. Muthu got convinced. Next time he went for procuring materials for his shop, there were strips of cane and bamboo also.

On one side, he had to increase his level of income. Only then he could clear off all loans. Only clearing the dues, could he think of approaching the guy for his sister’s hand. Only then he too could rest in peace and be satisfied that he had done his part in supporting her.

Yes. He was ready. He remembered a proverb. ‘By uttering FIRE, the tongue does not get burnt.’ Similarly, by uttering wreath, or by undertaking to make a wreath he was NOT inviting death for anyone. Garlands and bouquets would suggest symbols of love and marriage. But poor wreathes -- they suggested eternal love and still did not have an honourable image in the society.

Luckily, that was not the case with garlands. They continued to adorn Gods, Goddesses, brides and grooms, happy occasions in the family and of course they adorned dead bodies too. Still, they retain their holiness. Ilavarasi was known for her speciality in making garlands. Sheela was doing good at floral bouquets. Only Muthu remained. He had to give up his inhibitions and pick up wreath making. There was no competition between Ilavarasi and Muthu on who earned more. There was certainly no Wreath versus Garland. Sheela too was steadily progressing. She was learning from internet all new techniques in floral arrangements and was improving her skills. Only Muthu remained. He too would soon be a skilled performer. If any competition was to be there between Sheela and Muthu, probably he might be lagging behind. But not for long, for sure.

Wreath Versus Bouquet, the bouquet is winning now. Let it be in the business of wreath or bouquet. But skill-wise, it will soon be different.

Muthu is quite confident. So are Ilavarasi and Sheela.                           

March 26, 2021 18:56

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18:59 Mar 26, 2021

I tired hard to normalise the fonts. Sorry I could not manage. Bold- Big size fonts- spacing all have come up on their own in a haphazard manner. Please ignore if possible. Thanks.


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