Every year, in the week leading up to the beautiful Indian festival of Diwali, hundreds of street vendors add their little contribution of colour to the festivities. Dotting pavements, lining compound walls, delicately strung over hanging wires are the blooms of Diwali- the gorgeous yellows and striking oranges of the marigolds. Broken only by the dark green leaves of the mango tree and the sinewy hands of the garland makers.
The ‘torans’ or garlands of marigolds, are strung on front doors, car bumpers and all manner of important life necessities to attract prosperity and luck. It’s a heart-warming sight to see this riot of colour. Yellow and saffron are symbolic of peace, good fortune and progress in Hindu culture and they also reflect the auspicious sindoor (vermillion) and haldi (turmeric) that is part of every religious celebration. The marigold is a much loved flower and it survives the heaving truck journey from its home in the hinterland to the rough and tumble of the stringing and tying.
But amid this riot of colour, I’ve always wondered about the irony of the hands that make these flaming yards of flowers… they sit for hours diligently weaving hundreds of meters of flowers for other’s prosperity while all they have is a little square of pavement to call their home. They smile. Their children wrap the garlands happily. And they too thank the marigold for this little week of good fortune.