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Updated: April 14, 2013 17:00 IST

The flower child

BHUMIKA K.
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FLOWER POWER: Venkatesha caters to the demand for lotuses Photo: K. Gopinathan
FLOWER POWER: Venkatesha caters to the demand for lotuses Photo: K. Gopinathan

Name: Venkatesha L.

Occupation: Lotus seller

Area: Malleswaram

A lotus goes high up in the air, and lands in Venkatesha’s nimble hands.Then another one goes pirouetting up in the air… everyone who passes by Venkatesha L. stops momentarily in their busy life to admire the “lotus boy” in action.

And that’s been his USP. People come to Venkatesha looking for lotuses. And a bit more. It’s the way he sells them. “I’m famous because of my ‘show’,” smiles the light-eyed frail boy. “Even cinema and TV stars buy from me,” he says with tangible pride.

He definitely makes heads turn — the BMTC bus passing by slows down at the busy 4th main 17th cross Malleswaram junction as the conductor buys flowers for the day’s bus pooja and passengers get to see his antics. On Thursdays Sai Baba devotees heading to the nearby temple make it a point to buy lotuses from him, students from nearby schools and colleges definitely want the roses he sells…The 21-year-old has been selling flowers for the last six years, and of them, four years have been spent at this same corner in Malleswaram. Life’s definitely not a bed of roses for Venkatesha, who lost his father when he was in class seven, and his mother when he was in class 10. He somehow managed to study PUC, but had no money to continue his studies. His three older sisters are married.

Venkatesha is a lone ranger who wakes every morning at three in his village Maranayakanahalli, 38 kilometres from Bangalore. Then he either plucks the lotuses himself or buys them from village women who have plucked it from a lake near Akkayyammana Betta, a pilgrim centre. He takes a bus to City Market for more flowers and is in Mallleswaram at 6.30 a.m.

Venkatesha’s speciality is a variety of local seasonal flowers that people particularly seek out to please certain gods — ganagalu, malley, shivalinga hoova, sampige, deyrey hoova… he rattles off the names in Kannada. He also stocks rose-stems, strung jasmine garlands, and garike, bilpatre and tulasi — also used in religious rituals. During festivals, temples too buy from him.

When Venkatesha finished his PUC and was wondering what to do for a living, providence brought to him a woman who came in search of lotuses in his village.

He picked them from the pond, she paid for them and what was left was readily bought up by people. It then struck to him that he could make a living out of selling flowers. Venkatesha started selling flowers in Yelahanka, and he only sold lotuses then. Soon, he figured out a routine — each day of the week, dedicated to a particular god or goddess brought him good business from temples around. From Kumara Park’s Jain temple, to the Kannika Parameshwari temple…for many months he lugged a basket full of lotuses on his shoulders selling from street to street.

One day he was exhausted and came to this corner in Malleswaram. “It turned out to be my lucky spot. Everything was sold that day, and I didn’t have to walk! From that day, I’ve sold flowers here,” he says. While by noon most of his flowers are sold out, he stays back till six to ensure he sells off all his stock. A religious boy himself, he fondly shows the various tattoos on his arms — of lord Anjaneya and Shiva that his grandma, mother, and friend got done to keep him protected.

Venkatesha’s prices are far more reasonable than the other flower dealers; regular customers get a little extra.

“I like people. Even if I don’t make great money, it’s okay. I want people to come to me. What I make is just enough to get me my food for the day.”

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