I started working on a project that involves flower names and meanings. I found it really interesting to read that the language of flowers first developed in the Victorian era where people were pretty hesitant to express their feelings. I dont know if much of that has changed, at least in India, i think its still a Victorian era.
In India, not every one expresses their love through flowers. No body i know does that. Maybe i know the wrong people. Whatever, the thing is sending and gifting flowers is talked of but I havent seen that happening much around me. People prefer to gift each other candles or food items, things like that....reminds me of Taslima Nasreen's novel, French Lover, where a character says that Indians can think only about food because they had been a much starved population. But yes, food is the most important aspect of any social gathering in India, that much is for sure.
When I was a child, the Onam festival was something I looked forward to. Children had to collect flowers to make 'pookallams' or floral arrangements in a circle but it wasnt as easy as that. It was lots of fun coz you needed kilos of specific kinds of flowers to use for the pookallam. Things have changed now and everything is so readymade. In a way, I think it was my father who taught me to understand flowers. He loves describing flowers and their meanings. He loves to explain poems about nature and i've heard so much from him about flowers.
Nowadays, you can find information on the Internet but it wasnt like that when I was a kid. Your source of information was either your family, friends or the school library.
During Onam, collecting flowers was a wonderful feeling. The flowers we used were called thumba poov(Lucas Aspera), Mookuti (little tree plant), and the different varieties of the Chemparathy (Chinese shoe flower). Oh, how can i forget the crimson colored, frail thread line Chethi poo or Ixora. I've spent ages plucking these flowers. They are so tender, delicate and easy to pluck. They resemble crimson threads. I wish i had snapshots of these flowers to show you how it looks.
What I loved best was to collect the flowers, sit with my dad and make pookallams. Be it advertisements, songs, or festivals, flowers have an important place in Kerala. The funny thing is that no one grows flowers there but every one loves to wear flowers. A wedding, for instance, is where you can find women wearing lots of jasmine flowers in their hair. For festivals, everything is imported from Tamil Nadu.My son doesnt know anything about Onam. He doesnt get to pluck flowers or celebrate Onam. He is interested in butterflies, squirrels and rabbits more than flowers.
Those days are gone and I feel sad that work and city life make it impossible for me to recreate the same magic for my son....who knows, maybe i can do that for my grandkids....let me stay optimistic.