This is Mythila. She threads and sells garlands outside a Hindu temple close to where I am staying. There's a row of half-a-dozen or so stalls, and these spots close to places of worship seem to be the best for garland makers. It's one of the most conspicuous of those women's crafts practised on the streets.
The garlands Mythila makes are priced from Rs 30/- (about £0.35) to Rs 350/-.and more. There's a skill to preparing the flowers and then threading them. And a still greater skill when a range of different blooms have to be assembled to provide vivid bands of colour.
These are bought for the deities of the temple - and some flowers are ready sorted with a coconut in little baskets as a form of 'prasad', a religious offering which is at least in part edible.
The sexual division of labour is fairly stark in Chennai - there are women's jobs and then there are men's jobs. But garland making is not an exclusively female line of work. One of the stalls nearby is run by a man - I wish I knew the full story ...
As I understand it, the top end of the trade - making the really heavy garlands which adorn VVIPs and are placed on the deities on special occasions - is largely the preserve of men. They can make Rs 2,000/- a day, and considerably more at times of religious festivals.
Mankiya has her perch a few hundred meters away, outside a small roadside shrine - her flowers are much more modest, as befits the setting - and I suspect some are bought by women who like to wear flowers in their hair, still a vibrant tradition in South India. But even here, the link between garland making and Hindu observance is unmistakable
The big challenge for garland makers is that their stock doesn't last - the flowers wilt quickly in the sun, even at this time of year. So what you thread, you need to sell fairly promptly.
Prema has a slightly different sort of business - she was the only garland maker I could see in a mixed market on Lloyds Road, in a poorer part of town.
She sold cheap bangles as well as flowers - but there's clearly demand here for flower chains to decorate hair and blooms for religious observance, as well as the grander garlands.
I bought one of these glorious multicoloured garlands for what I considered to be a very reasonable Rs 200/- ... and I'll tell you in another blog what I did with it -
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