Friday, September 3, 2010

Life on the Street


Where commuters see a perceptual traffic jam, he sees a business opportunity. He acquires roses in bulk, to sell to people waiting impatiently for the traffic lights to change. He doesn't sell the flowers himself- he oversees the fleet of children and women who do the actual selling. He doles out bunches of flowers to them, collects the money, pays them their share, and gives advice on selling techniques.

A few years back, he was a flower seller himself. One of those grimy faced, but cheerful boys who presses a bunch of flowers wrapped in cellophane against your car window, and bargains cheerfully with you on the price even as you tell him you don't even want the flowers. 

He is functionally illiterate, though he can add, subtract and calculate discounts faster than the well educated commuters he sells to. He may not know much beauty in his life, but his aesthetic sensibilities are high when it comes to arranging flowers into fetching bouquets.

Hard work, an ability to asset himself, and a few lucky breaks have pushed him up the value chain- he now makes more money than he did as a seller, but it is not enough.

He is a street dweller, who calls the pavement under the flyover his home. The clothes line strung across the pavement is not a washing line; it is the closet he shares with his extended family of flower sellers. The fluttering fabric occasionally provides the illusion of privacy; the wooden planks serve as beds at night.

He is willing to do whatever it takes to better himself, but he also knows that it takes more than just grit and determination to break out of poverty. He is pragmatic and determined, but just once in awhile, he needs the narcotic of escapism- a Bollywood movie.

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15 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

A great example of the best of the human spirit - cheeful, determined, making the best of whatever he has. Thanks for sharing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I hope someday his efforts are enough to acquire a home of some kind!

ladyfi said...

A compassionate view of others less fortunate than ourselves.

Jules said...

That is a heartbreaking beautifully written piece.

Thanks for the lovely comment yesterday. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Mason Canyon said...

You definitely captured the human spirit. This is very thought provoking.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Margot Kinberg said...

Rayna - What a beautiful insight into the life of people we so often don't even notice. From your eloquent description, I feel that I already know him, in a way. Lovely 'photo, too. And an excellent point about the Bollywood movie...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What a great attitude he possesses.

Jan Morrison said...

a compassionate portrait and without romanticism. Well done.
Jan Morrison

Tina said...

I agree with Jan, great portrait of this precious person. You gave him a voice, and told his story with compassion. Nicely done, Rayna.

LTM said...

amazing, heartbreaking and fascinating--and excellent! He's moving up the chain.

And then lol at you w/the narcotic escapism = Bollywood movies. :o)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

People like him are really troubling to me--because I still ascribe to the philosophy that hard work means financial security.

Well done, Rayna.

Clarissa Draper said...

If only this boy knew his story was told online to hundreds of loyal CoffeeRing readers. Tell him we are thinking of him.
Clarissa Draper from Listen To The Voices

Colette said...

Awesome blog Rayna. It's nice to meet you!

Theres just life said...

Hopefully his drive and determination, will keep him moving up. That and the willingness to learn more than just numbers.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Jemi- and so positive despite everything.

@ Diane- a roof over his head maybe, but who can afford real estate in this city?

@ Fiona- the organisation I used to work for did a lot of work with youth from the streets- and they are an amazing bunch of kids

@ Jules- thank you.

@ Mason- thank you.

@ Margot- I never saw them too, till I joined the organisation I used to work for till two months back. Now I know so many of them for the wonderful kids that they are. And most of them are addicted to Bollywood movies- but why not?

@ Alex - amazing, isn't it?

@ Jan- thank you. Nothing romantic about poverty, but the human spirit is soemthing that should be cherished

@ Tina- thank you. There was this kid I knew who I was really fond of- he walked out of my life very suddenly- this is in honour of him

@ Leigh- that he is. That they all aspire to, and many do manage to do.

@ Elizabeth- I did believe that too, or wanted to. But reality does tell a different story. But he is moving up, even if not as high as he should, and maybe someday, the vicious cycle would be broken.

@ Clarissa- I am sure he would be thrilled to know that. Everytime I take photographs, people ask me if anyone is going to see them.

@ Colette- thank you, and I shall visit you back soon

@ Theres just life- I do hope so too. But the system he is battling against doesn't make things easy.

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