Name: Banu bi
Occupation: Flower seller.
Banu Bi is a regular at the sprawling Gudimalkapur wholesale flower market, a few kilometres off the Mehdipatnam main road. She lives close to Rajbhavan Road and commutes to the flower market on a regular basis to buy fresh flowers, string them together and sell them for a marginal profit.
She makes herself comfortable on a cement surface in the market and begins to work with a heap of golden marigolds. “You get better as you practice. Within an hour, I can make tightly-knit malas out of 500gm of jasmine flowers,” she says.
She pauses to think when we ask her age and says, “Around 60.” She hesitates and says as an after thought, “I don’t know. I might be closer to 70.” She doesn’t have a birth certificate and is not sure. We look on puzzled and she says with a smile, “How does it matter? I have the strength to wake up early morning, helping in cooking for my family, fetch water and then travel by bus from Raj Bhavan Road to this area. I work here all day. As long as I am active, I will be happy.”
Banu Bi lost her husband a few years ago and lives with her two sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. She owns a small house near Jeedimetla but moved to Raj Bhavan Road, since it is closer to her children’s work area.
Her memory is sharp when she recalls her younger days, “We used to live near Osmangunj. There was a huge flower market in the area and my husband and I were vendors there. Later, business dwindled as people started moving into the city. We had to move.”
On normal days, she sells a ‘moora’ (a string of flowers measuring from your finger tip to the elbow) of jasmine flowers at Rs.10. On Fridays, the price goes up to Rs. 15. On festive days, she sells the jasmines at Rs. 25 to 30 per ‘moora’. “Buyers bargain for a lower price. We too have to source the flowers at much higher rates during festivals. We don’t make much profit. And we stay up all night to make the malas to meet the high demand,” she says.
She says she earns just enough to take care of her own needs and pitch it for her grandchildren’s education. “I don’t know any other trade and I don’t have the strength to do household work to earn a living. There are days when I feel low. But once I come here, the sight of flowers makes me feel better,” she says, getting back to her heap of flowers.
(A weekly column on men and women who make Hyderabad what it is)