Once a bouquet of bright blossoms, the flower markets in Lucknow have now turned into deserted areas with no or very little business activity. Severely affected by the pandemic-propelled lockdown, the florists are forced to suffer amidst a hard tryst with plummeting sales and wilting stocks. With restraints on weddings, social events and public functions and limitations on entry in religious places, the flower shops are undergoing a financial crunch for the second year in a row!
From dropped orders to sagged inventories & lost hopes!
Narrating his ordeal with these tough times, Ravindra, a flower seller explains, "I have a flower shop at Mankameshwar temple on Mondays, at Hanuman Setu temple on Tuesdays, at Sai temple on Thursdays and at Shani temple on Saturdays. Earlier I would buy fresh flowers and they would last the entire week. Now my hopes and the flowers have wilted. Devotees are not coming and the few who come, do not buy prasad or flowers because they cannot go inside the temples."
In view of the escalating infections in the territory, the state government has mandated that only 5 people are permitted to enter a temple at a time. Thereby, the boundaries of most temples across the city have been barricaded and prasad offerings are not allowed. Due to this, Ravindra's earnings have dropped to negligible levels while he recounts daily incomes of around 800 to 900 rupees before the pandemic. Left in a dearth of alternatives, he expects to start retail of toys at the traffic signals once the lockdown in the state is
Wilting petals & hopes!
Hugely popular amongst the devotees, Sitaram used to sell jasmine flowers at the Hanuman Setu temple but his shop stands closed now. Given that the jasmine flowers lose their value very quickly, business in these dire times cannot be sustained at all. He further tells that he hopes to start the business again once the restrictions are relaxed.
Another prominent temple at the Chowk area reverberated with scores of devotees but it stands largely idle now. Ram Prasad Tiwari, a priest at the site tells that stocks of around 90-100 kg flowers were accumulated every Tuesday and Thursday. After the temple proceedings concluded, these flowers were given to a women's self-help group where the workers would craft incense sticks out of these waste flowers. Due to the ban on flowers, the operations and earnings of women have also stopped.
Scorched profits during ongoing wedding season & upcoming festivals
Flower dealers also expressed grief and fear over the anticipated effects of the current lockdown on the festival of 'Bada Mangal', which is marked on all Tuesdays of the holy month of Jayestha, with massive celebrations and festivities. It begins on May 21 and people get Hanuman temples decorated with marigold flowers as an offering. "If the restrictions continue, our business will take a massive beating. This will be the second year in a row when 'Bada Mangal' will not be celebrated in the traditional manner," said the priest at the Hanuman Temple in Chowk.
Further, the florists are also worried about the significant dip in wedding sales. One of the major reasons behind the drop in flower decorations is the cap on the allowed number of guests. If the restraints are not lifted soon, the wedding season would be over without accruing any gains for the flower sellers. One retailer informed that weddings would return only in November after the current period ends.
While the sale of bouquets and garlands has been hit by a ban on public gatherings, demand in hotels has also reduced due to low guest count. Troubled by big losses, the flower industry is finding it hard to survive. It would require a lot of time and a greater amount of effort before the businesses can be revived.
In the current times, it is important to recognise the need to support local sellers and small-scale ventures so that all business entities can preserve their functionality. Only when we assure aid and cooperation to the needy people inhabiting our diverse social-economic ecosystem, that a smoother way out of this pandemic will be assured. Hope the shadows subside soon reviving the shine and shimmer of the city's most colourful markets!