After the women were left on their own, the market gave them hope for a second run in life
Unknown to the thousands of Mumbaikars who flock to the Dadar Flower Market every day, the vibrant market has been a haven for dozens of women, who have had the chance to defy the odds and earn a living with dignity. The same flowers in this market that adorn ceremonial places and homes have also brightened the lives of many.
The market marked a new beginning for Asha Kumbhar, a resident of Kalwa, after she abandoned her abusive husband and started selling mogra garlands. “I was 24 when I took my children and ran away from home. My husband was a drunk and beat me and my children every day. I was sick of him, but the whole family depended on him,” Ms Kumbhar said.
She now sends her son to school and tries to earn enough to provide a good education for her two daughters as well. “I left my husband when I realized he would end up killing me or my children one day. I was also afraid that we were going to starve, but by the grace of God, I am here today. Preparing two full meals a day is always hard work, but every bite reminds me of how strong I am,” she said.
Hira Bamne, who sells marigold garlands, is yet another fighter. The 64-year-old has been traveling from Diva to the market to sell flowers for 30 years.
Mrs. Bamne was abandoned by her husband at the age of 25. “My husband left me with two children and absolutely no source of income. In my search for a livelihood, I reached this market and started selling garlands. I educated my son and daughter up to class VII after which my daughter got married,” she said.
Unfortunately, Ms. Bamne’s difficulties did not end there. She lost her daughter to a terminal illness and was abandoned by her son.
Ms Bamne, who now lives with her two grandchildren, said she looked after them and could have starved to death if not for her garland business. “I’ve struggled all my life to make sure I don’t have to beg to survive, but with old age gradually taking hold of me, I’m afraid my worst fear will come true,” she said. .
Mariamma Andudiyar (74) resorted to selling flowers after her husband died in a car accident. While Mrs. Andudiyar’s hometown is in Tamil Nadu, she lives in Dharavi and has been selling garlands for 38 years.
“My husband was a driver and I never felt the need to work. I was lucky enough to have two children and everything was going perfectly well until my husband died. I was illiterate, didn’t speak Hindi properly and finding a job in a city like Mumbai seemed impossible,” she said.
Mrs Andudiyar, who shed sweat and tears to provide a decent life for her children, hopes her children, who are now married, will care for her in her final days.
Lata Srushe (78), from Buldhana district, has been selling flowers for four decades. Mrs. Srushe worked as a laborer on farms, but after her village began to face a severe water crisis, it became difficult for her to earn a living.
“Without rain the crops started to fail and I couldn’t even earn ₹100 a day. That’s when I decided to come to Mumbai and this flower market seemed like the only place where an illiterate woman like me could make a living.
Mrs. Srushe returns to her village twice a week and otherwise lives on train platforms. The cataract that has developed over her eyes has blinded her, but she refuses to go down.
“I can’t afford an operation with the little money I earn, but I choose to enjoy every moment of life. I know there will come a day when I will be too tired even to sell flowers and suffer, but I am just grateful that today is not that day,” she said.