Flower Sellers at Dadar

pictures of Young girls selling roses at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Few years ago I wrote about the Dadar Flower Market, in Mumbai. Tucked under the bridge next to the Dadar train Station, like alien slime it oozes into adjoining alleys and walkways, filling every doorway and cranny. So jam-packed, my cousin cautioned, “don’t even try to put your hand in your pocket, it will go in someone else’s.” Aaargh! Only in Mumbai.

My other Flower Seller posts:

But it IS an experience. Not just for colorful flowers, but to see up close how the poor make a living. And be bothered by seeing young girls selling flowers for a living, when they should be in school. Politicians mouth big speeches about expensive projects to eradicate poverty. The money ends up in their Dubai bank accounts, while the poor fester near open sewers.

I want to be bothered. It is far easier, NOT to go; NOT to see. Stay home, play with Meera, take a nap, go to a nice restaurant for frothy Kaapi. You and I, we need to be nudged from our comfort zones; we need to wade through muck and see how the poor work and live. We need to be offended; get mad at impotent politicians.

As I edge my way through the crowds; my heart races and I’m in a zone. The din of the market is white noise, sharpening my thoughts and focus; I ignore the rotten ooze creeping in my sandals and in between my toes, impervious to odors of rot, the shoves and jostling. I don’t hear the screams and curses; I don’t feel the feet stepping on mine; of sweat soaked bodies pressed to mine, slithering ahead; a wet elbow crazes my cheek. I resist the temptation to wipe my face. I smile.

I am mesmerized by the beauty here. See this beautiful girl above selling roses. She’s not more than 12 years old, but dressed in a saree and tending this stall, while she should be sitting in a class room, in a clean dress, or playing with friends. She’ll never know that luxury.

Trapped, waiting to bloom in your nice home.
pictures of packed yellow roses at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

They are so used to this. THIS is their life. This family was all smiles.
pictures of Flower sellers at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Champae, super fragrant variant of the plumeria. One of my favorites. These were sold by the number, Rs 5 each Champae are Michelia champaca, thanks to Maya and Namrata
Pictures of Champae (Michelia Champaca) plumeria by Arun Shanbhag

She had the only Neel kamal (blue lotus) in the market. In the blazing sun, she kept her cool under the umbrella, while patiently helping find the best. Rs 50 for a dozen.
Girl selling "Neel Kamal" blue lotus at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

She observed my antics with a piercing gaze, but was too tired to smile.
pictures of Flower sellers at the Dadar Flower Market mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

All giggles at being photographed.
Pictures of Young Girls selling flowers at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

When you work and live on sidewalks, that is where you feed the baby. Mumbai Meri Jaan, anyone?
Pictures at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

But there is a God! All flowers here are woven with the starting end looped around the big toe. Yes, all flowers which end on the head of God, start the day at the dusty, tired feet of the working poor.
Pictures of Flower sellers at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Each garland we brought was woven on the toes of these poor women. At home, we’ll sprinkle a few drops of water and then these flower decorate Ganapati during puja. After puja, we receive a small portion of these garlands as prasad – a sacred gift from the Gods, which we will treasure.

Fitting isn’t it? That which was woven on the feet of the poor, ends up on the most sacred of Gods. There is a God! And you know where to find her.
Pictures of Flower sellers at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Pictures of Flower sellers at the Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

See more pictures in the gallery below:

89 thoughts on “Flower Sellers at Dadar

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  1. Namaskar
    This is a brilliaint , sensitive and very artistic Blog on Flowers & the Sellers – I share all your views and have wondered too.-When i used to visit Mumbai (santacruz) market Temple i used to find the lady seller recall and ask “Kab aye Saab ?”- and pack a set so nicely -are so kind and always touched .

    On one occasion I impulsively gave a new pkt of Agarbattis as a small gift and promptly she responded with some Flowers added (as a return gift) –something seldom seen in Modern Society –left me in HR& TRG and 40 plus years of service …wondering as to how Mumbai really works amidst the crowds and stress –
    Amidst poverty was such Grace, Kindness and Cheerfullness -something seldom seen.
    Maybe God with his Anugraha blesses the Flower sellers who string and make Malaas- and provide all Pooja flowers
    Shree Lalita Sahasrana has a line” Chaitanya Kusuma Priya” The Divine Mother likes Flowers -offered by the Mind.

    Capt TR
    Have signed in to coprrespond as am also a an avid Nature person

    1. Thank you Capt for sharing your wonderful experiences and your kindness.

      I love taking pictures of these flower sellers, they are a beautiful people. And you say it so well: “Amidst poverty was such grace, kindness and cheerfullness … ”

      For us who have so much, it is the grace and kindness and cheerfullness that we need to complete our lives with.

      Wonderful line from the Lalita Sahasranama – will have to re-listen to it carefully.

      Hope the Divine mother accepts these humble offerings of words and pictures.

      Best Wishes,

  2. Hi Arun,

    Indeed beautiful pictures.

    To me the poverty behind your photos is not as obvious as the poverty you’ll meet at a similar market in for instance Delhi where I go each year visiting family (meeri patni hindustani hai). The poor flower vendors of Delhi will be even more destiture and not as clean and colourful as in your pictures – unfortunately. Not to mention the small kids coming to your vehicle at traffic lights.

    Best Wishes,
    from Copenhagen

    1. Despite the poverty in mumbai, I see a lot of pride and contentment in Mumbai and all places in south india. But Delhi, and northern india is very different. Don’t know why, but folks appear very rough, even those who are well off. Then, what to say of the poor.

      Congratulations to you.

      and thank you for sharing your experience.

      1. Hi Arun,

        I’ve noticed the same difference between South and North and I totally agree with you.

        I – as an outsider, a ‘ferangi’ – have asked our Indian friends and family members why the people in Delhi seem more rough compared to people from for instance Mumbai and further South. I don’t know whether I should mention it, but the answer to my question has always been: ‘It’s the Punjabi influence’… (hope readers of this blog will not be offended!).


        1. I don’t think anyone will take offense, Jens

          I suspect history is the culprit. In the North, the native Indian culture was essential wiped out by successive invasions by mughals and else. Thus for generations, martial skill-sets were required for mere survival. So Northerners have witnessed and experienced many, many atrocities. That apparently did not leave any time or energy for appreciating the finer qualities of humanity.

          Now perhaps in a generation or two, we can achieve balance … and transcend our yesterdays.


          1. Arun, this is uncanny! I have myself noticed this difference between the North and South and have also come up with the same hypothesis!

  3. Thank you for such a beautiful and thought provoking post. Visits to India for me are always a mix of so many conflicting emotions but I am ALWAYS drawn back and where I always leave most of my heart.
    I always love reading your posts because you show me a Mumbai that I’ve never seen even though I’ve been visiting Mumbai every year for years (its where my mum grew up and all her family lives). And I love your posts on Kumta too – I live vicariously through them because I’ve only been to the Kanara coast 3 times in my life and loved them all.

    1. O Thank you Priya for your very kind words!

      I grew up in Mumbai and spent essentially all my growing years in Mumbai, except many summers were spent on the Kanara coast visiting relatives and stealing mangoes! Fun Fun.

      What can I say, I was indeed fortunate!

      Every time I go back, surprisingly, it is like I never left. The folks on the sidewalk wonder why they haven’t seen me in a while! 🙂

      Thank you for your comment.

  4. Hi Arun
    Are you attending the MIT alumni functions this december, marking the silver jubilee of 1984 NSS batch?

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