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Flowers, yehi hai right choice

IN JOCUND COMPANY Busy arranging flowers

IN JOCUND COMPANY Busy arranging flowers   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: K.GANESAN





BOUQUET SHOPS are patronised by youth like never before, writes S.S.KAVITHA

C. Senthil Kumar, a final year English literature student, zips through Chokkikulam on his motorcycle and barges into a florist's shop and orders a bouquet of red roses. He casually whips out a hundred rupee note and gives it to the florist, without blinking an eye. Hundred rupees for a bouquet? Like dozens of young men in Madurai, Senthil Kumar uses his pocket money to buy flowers for his girl friend. The occasion being the anniversary of the day when he first proposed to his beloved, a second year student in a nearby college. Senthil Kumar visits the florist at least five times a year to order flowers, on such occasions as his girl friend's birthday, on Valentine's Day and New Year's Day.

Generation gap?

Elsewhere, outside the bustling Pillaiyar temple in Railway Colony, S. Muthiah, a retired Tamil government teacher, buys a one-foot string of 200 jasmine flowers for the black granite Vanquisher of Troubles. Whether it is Senthil Kumar or Muthiah, flowers bring them much happiness, as it probably does for the receiver too. "An octogenarian may gift a string of jasmine flowers," says Senthil Kumar, "but today's youth prefers bouquets and roses." That view makes Muthiah aghast. He wonders why Madurai's youth are spending their parent's hard-earned income on expensive bouquets. "It is a sin," says Muthiah, who looks no more than 65. He says it's one thing for foreign students to spend money on these gifts, given that they earn by doing odd jobs while studying, but another thing for Madurai's youth who sponge off their parents. Florists say that gifting flowers has increased in the past five years. "A bunch of flowers surely gives much joy and happiness," says Devaki Ramachandran, of Spring Bloom, a flower shop in Chokkikulam. Even in hospitals, flowers help to improve the mood of patients, she vouches. Call it generation gap, but the florists are raking in the moolah. "People like to order bouquets and flower arrangements for birthdays or marriage anniversaries, any special occasion or college function, or to invite a VIP," says Mrs. Devaki, who has been in the business for 15 years. She sticks to mostly western arrangements - triangular, circular or crescent shaped bouquets with a large number of flowers - to satisfy her customers. Most people, she says, invariably select red roses as a gift. People who are knowledgeable about flowers do not mind paying extra money for long lasting flowers such as bird of paradise, orchids, anthuriums, gladioli, carnations and gerberas, she points out. "The mindset of the older generation has not changed. They feel they should not waste money on wilting flowers and still scout for wall clocks, night lamps and silver vessels to present as gifts," she says, adding that this attitude needs to change. Fresh flowers cannot be compared with artificial things. "The mere sight of fresh flowers soothes the mind, eyes and spirit," she says.Though widely perceived as a conservative town low on materialism, the bouquet culture is fast embracing the city. "It is fast catching on, especially among youths. They are willing to spend much on flowers, especially during new year celebrations and Valentines day," she quips. A floral arrangement of red roses costs Rs.500 and above, a sum that many young people like Senthil Kumar spends without batting an eyelid. And how his girl friend justifies: "Am I not worthy of such a gift on special occasions like the Valentine's Day, birthday and proposal day anniversary! If you want to be different, let your gift be bouquets," she says poetically."

Artistic

Arranging flowers, both in bouquets and baskets, is an art in itself. It demands creativity, like in painting and sculpting, but with a difference. In bouquet making, there is ample chance for rearrangement till the florist is satisfied. When creativity is at its peak, the work is sure to turn many heads even in a large gathering," says Devaki, who got into the business out of love for flowers.The job also involves mundane things like cleaning, cutting and chopping, and maintaining flowers, which travel for hours from Ooty, Kodaikanal and Bangalore. She says that she used to sit through the night, cleaning and arranging flowers when her helpers failed to turn up because "waiting might take the life out of flowers."

Floral arrangements

The Buds and Blooms proprietor Radhika Vasudevan is considered a pioneer who introduced bouquet culture in the temple city two decades ago. In 1990, she started her own business, emphasizing a free style instead of sticking to `Ikebana,' which she studied."Although people are willing to invest in bouquets, few bother about buying flower arrangements, which last longer because the flowers are kept in water. Unlike bouquets, which wilt quickly, floral baskets last several days even in Madurai's searing heat," she points out.

New players

The booming bouquet business has attracted several new players. In the past, mostly women got into this business. Now, even men mostly stage decorators are turning florists, who are located in easily accessible areas and stock the much-sought-after inexpensive bouquets, says Mrs. Radhika."People prefer cheap bunch of flowers. Many do not know that bright colours are meant for happy occasions and dull and pale colours for sad occasions," says Kalaivani Ramachandran of Spring Blossoms, a florist in K.K. Nagar. "Even if we make bouquets with mild colours for a customer who is making a visit to a hospital, they think that we are selling unwanted and waste flowers," she explains.Take the case of Sofia Florence Rani, a school teacher, who buys bouquets for both marriages and hospital visits. She rarely bothers whether the bouquet is decoratively arranged or not. All she wants are roses, for any occasion. Quips R.K.Vijayaraj of American College: "Like cakes for Christmas and crackers for Diwali, roses are for Valentine's and Friendship Day."





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