Mission Delhi – Muhammed Sadiq, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There’s a new guy in florist Muhammed Sadiq’s shop. He is without a face, and he’s without clothes. This morning, Mr Sadiq is dressing him up in front of his pavement stall, in full public view.
“I got him for 900 rupees,” says the youthful flower seller, who ar 29 is a father of two kids, but looks like a teenager.
The torso-length figure is a mannequin, and it is the symbol of the flower man’s determination to sail through the tough times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The flower business has come down by half,” he says, and surprisingly, the depressing news is conveyed with an infectious smile. The cheery faced Mr Sadiq doesn’t really sell bouquets, but threads the flowers all day long into garlands and gajras, here on this central Delhi pavement. A big part of his earnings comes from weaving roses with currency notes—the kind of garlands chiefly used in weddings. In the BC (before corona) era, he would get steady assignments because “weddings happen all the time, even if they skyrocket only during the winter months”. But he theatrically shakes his head, and complains that “the frequency of weddings has gone down because of the corona.”
Whatever, Mr Sadiq isn’t the type of man who sits, complains and does nothing. Instead, he recently drove his scooty to nearby Karol Bagh market “to get ideas on what other additions I can make to my business…. and to find out how other people are managing to survive in these bad times.”
Strolling about the market—“it didn’t have even half of its former energy”—he carefully observed the goings-on of the little shops and stalls lining the pathways. And suddenly, the penny dropped. “I decided to sell lowers in my stall.”
And so he invested some of his hard-earned cash in buying a white plastic mannequin from Karol Bagh, along with the so-called lowers, or track pants, and excitedly returned to his stall. It now is a flower plus lowers shop, the only business in the area with such a unique combination.
Still new into the world of clothing, it is taking Mr Sadiq some good amount of time and struggle to pull up these pants around the faceless figure’s legs.
The morning is still young and nobody is around at the moment. The flower stall is tucked between a chai shop and a tailor’s establishment. It primarily consists of a wooden cot, already littered with flowers and threads, and a chipped Godrej cash box. This cot is a popular point for locals to gather. Within a few minutes, two elderly men come up with newspapers, sit on the edge of the cot, and start chatting about what else but coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Mr Sadiq says that he will deck up his stall with the lowers only later in the morning. He leisurely settles down on the wooden cot, sits cross-legged and empties plastic packets filled with fresh flowers. He gets them daily from a supplier. A contended smile is glowing about his face, as if there could be nothing more satisfying in the world than to fiddle about with flowers.
“I may or may not continue with lowers after coronavirus is gone, for it is only a side-business, but I will always be working with flowers,” he says, tucking a rose between his lips as he picks up a spool of thread.
Meanwhile, the mannequin is standing on a corner of the cot, its body language as solemn as one of those ancient life-like sculptures in the National Museum.
[This is the 338th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Flower man’s lowers