Day 2 of NaPoWriMo 2020
(Photo by Aashish Vaidya. Image of Ranchod Rai Temple, taken few years ago on MG Road, while standing right in front of the flower shop, the subject of the poem)
The Flower Shop
The flower shop on the corner of MG road
and Sarneshwar Lane was located strategically –
equidistant from the two of the four gates of the old city:
Laheripura and Mandvi, both within less than a quarter kilometer.
Within a 5 minutes walk, were more than ten temples.
The devotees of which were the regulars of the flower shop,
owned and operated by the Ancient Man, a name coined by some
street urchin, which stuck, to the extent that
no one knew his real name anymore.
The Ancient Man, kept busy from dusk to dawn, wrapping the flowers,
the roses, the vincas, the jasmines, the marigolds,
and the plumerias, in fragments of
banana leaves and securing the packages
with thin white pieces of thread.
The Ancient Man, usually sported a short shirt length,
or a long, white tunic that hit below his knees.
The tunics were permanently stained with flower pollens or with
the deep yellow of the Kesudo flower – the Butea monosperma,
To the point that they really shouldn’t even be called white.
Similarly dyed were his loose white cotton-linen pants,
which should rightfully be called pajamas.
The Ancient Man, kept no books, but had encyclopedic knowledge
of the needs of his regulars: what type of flower packages they would want,
on regular days, on special personal occasions, and during festival days.
After working the flower shop from pre-dawn, the Ancient Man,
at dusk, close his shop for the day, right after grabbing the last
flower package, he’d had set aside from himself.
And then walk ten meters, south of his shop, across MG street,
To the Ranchod Rai temple, which is one of the many names
of Krishna, literally meaning “One who abandoned the battlefield.”
Krishna really did this when he decided to relocate
His grandfather’s capital from Mathura to Dwarka.
The Ancient Man, would join other devotees, in the evening prayers
Led by a skinny priest, dressed in saffron tunic and dhoti,
Sporting a black ponytail on an otherwise clean-shaven head.
The priest, will prepare the offering plate with camphor, flowers petals,
Vermillion past and grains of rice. He will then proceed to light
the ghee soaked wicks placed on the brass Aarti.
After marking the forehead of the special devotee with vermillion paste
and grains of rice, and bestowing his blessings, the priest will hand over the Aarti.
Promptly, ringing the hand bell, and chanting slokas, he will commence
the evening prayer. The blessed devotee will rhythmically, ritualistically move the Aarti
in loops. While others, including the Ancient Man, will join the prayer chorus,
immediately increasing the decibel level of MG road, logjamed
with bumper to bumper traffic of exhaust spewing, constantly honking,
impossibly loud scooters, auto-rickshaws, cars, pedestrians, and stray animals.
Soon after the prayer is over, the Ancient Man will head home for the night.
Only to start his routine, all over again, pre-dawn,
while his customers all still soundly asleep dreaming dreams.
Notes: Second day of NaPoWriMo 2020. Got a late start, and barely pieced something together – almost in a stream of conscisouness type of writing today. The prompt was: “…a leaf from Schuyler’s book, as it were, and asks you to write a poem about a specific place — a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there. Little details like this can really help the reader imagine not only the place, but its mood – and can take your poem to weird and wild place.”