Thursday, October 13, 2005

FLOWER POWER


South is famous for flowers. Particularly the women must adorn their heads with the most fragrant flowers. And it is the late afternoon which is the chosen time for this indulgence. The guys will not allow themselves to be left behind. The devout among them will buy flowers for their favourite deities and offer it during prayers either at home or in the temple.The not so devout will buy it for their sweethearts.In the South, it is sacrilege if you haven't bought flowers for your better half when you return home from work. And if you have, your day or shall we say night is made. God save you if you haven't.

And among flowers,Jasmine,called Mallipoo holds a unique place. Its fragrancce is heady. It has a slightly offwhite colour and comes both as rounded petals(goondu malli) as well as the flat ones. Born and brought up in Kolkata, I had no great fascination for Mallipoo till s introduced it to me just after we got married.I am always fascinated by the heaps of mallipoo and kanakambaram flowers which the women in the South deck their hair with. Irrespective of caste,colour or creed and whether rich or poor,Madurai mallippoo is a must must.

The other day we were visiting a Gujerati friend during Navarathri.He introduced us to his wife as Jasmine.I said,Yasmin? "No'",he replied a bit offended. Her name is Jasmine. And then it struck me that I should post on my blog a short writeup on Mallipoo which i have been contemplating for some time and particularly after my recent return from my Sasurbaadi at Madurai.

Wellness is the flavour of the day.And aroma therapy is a great soother and benefits the body and mind.The growers of mallipoo at Madurai and nearabouts have soaked up some aroma magic.Globalisation has also sucked them in its powerful pull.Madurai malli has gone French and also 'Down Under".From 3 processing units there are 15 now; all converting flower into paste and liquid called 'concrete' and 'absolute' respectively. The demand driver is the perfume industry.At 550$ per kg in the export market and higher than the domestic market price,there is a sudden shortage of Mallipoo and the women in the South are not amused.

In a 20billion $ industry, jasmine and rose hold about 1000 million dollars i.e approx 5%. It is also like the metals market quite volatile. If it rains,the prices crash.The prices are at their peak around 6 am. As the day progresses,the prices keep dropping alongwith the fragrance.The shelf life is only 24 hours.If you have kept it in the fridge,it is fine.But then when you take it out,the fragrance evaporates.The Mallipoo is dead shortly thereafter.

And for those of you who are fond of statistics,there are about 2000 farmers growing Mallipoo on nearly 5000 acres,at a yield of 300kgs per month.Mostly in and around Madurai.Mallipoo prices somtimes touch a high of Rs 120/kg.The farmers are raking in the moolah.Let them make mallipoos when the sun shines!

Bonjour Madame/Mademoisselle.

11 comments:

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rums said...

uncle, first please promise you will activate your spam guard before your next post!
and uncle i'm surprised that you didn't know about jasmine (mallipoo) while in cal, it's one of the most popular flowers among bengalis. the others are marigold and hibiscus. it's called 'belli phul' and i remember them being used among other things as jewellery during dance performances esp the ones accompanying rabindra sangeet. i've also seen men wear them around their wrists during weddings and women in their hair during festivals.
though i didn't grow up and in cal, i remember my mum would cart around at least two plants, jasmine and tulsi, every new place my dad was transferred to.

rums said...

oh i forgot to mention rajnigandha, it's another favourite bong flower.

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gs said...

rums,thanks for your comments.i stand corrected.during my early boyhood days i really didn't care much for flowers;hence the ignorance.we had a gujerati neighbour who would keep rajnigandha flowers in her drawing hall and that would emanate an unforgettable 'gandha'.having said that,honestly,i think that bengali bhadramahilas do not deck themselves with flowers as much as their southern counterparts.

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david mcmahon said...

That picture takes me right back to many happy times spent in the South.

And there is nothing like the scent of jasmine!

gs said...

hi david
the best jasmines in india are from madurai.you get their fragrance one mile away.it is really unforgettable.(incidentally,my wife hails from madurai!)

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