11, Nov 2021 | Mamta Pared
“Hurry up kids. You work less and chat more,” Jayashree Parade was prodding her children to work faster as they all threaded marigold flowers to make the beautiful garlands which are a must have for all significance prayers and occasions in India. In order to protect and preserve these freshly flowers on the plateau, the family has built a hut and lives near the space that they have designated for the purpose, near the forest area.
“Oh mummy, people passing by will hear what you are saying and will come and help us, isn’t it so sister?” the children asked. The children enjoyed making the garlands and toran (door decorations) from the marigold flowers interspersed with mango leaves.
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Every morning they go to pluck marigold flowers and collect mango leaves. These marigold flowers, which bloom on the slopes of the hill, are one of the best ways for them to earn the festive season around Diwali. Marigold flowers, which bloom on the plateau, and the green, bitter-tasting wild fruits called Chibud, which grow in the forest, are brought to the city and sold by the tribal folks. Traditional ‘diyas’ or oil lamps are made from Chibud.
“Aunty, how much do you sell the garlands for?” I asked. “Garlands are usually sold for Rs 50 to Rs 60 during Dussehra season, let’s see what happens after Diwali,” she said, adding “Torans are sold at Rs 20 to Rs 30 per meter.”
Dress up the doorways with fragrance
The family makes their signature toran by weaving together mango leaves, marigold flowers and rice husk (lomb) which is called ‘long’ in the city. These toran and marigold flowers have a special significance around Diwali.
During festivals the tribals offer the marigold flowers to their deities and worship them, and after that day, marigold flowers are also worn in the hair. On the other hand, in some places, the same flowers are sold in the market and ensure that the families can celebrate festivals well with the money earned from it. Garlands and toran which are prepared are sold in Vasai-Virar market.
Jayashree Parade recalled that in the past, when there was no vehicle facility, the family would get up early in the morning and walk to the bus stand balancing a load of garlands on their heads. A bus full of many such loads used to go to the city. The fragrance would linger on. Now the villagers come together and arrange a private vehicle. People stay up all night in the city preparing garlands and toran and after selling them they return home the next day. However, some city folks do not understand the hard work put into making each garland and find bizarre ways to bargain.
Jayashree Parade recalled an incident one season when a man came to buy a toran. “He stretched out both his hands like wings and said that the measure of both his hands was one meter. The man was tall and his arms were long. I told him, brother I understand what you are trying to say, but you go ahead and buy it from someone who will give you such a meter,” says Parade. She laughed loudly at the memory and said, “People think we are illiterate and ignorant and we don’t know anything”. Her kids had a good laugh at this and with renewed energy began making garlands and toran at a higher speed.
This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by Mamta Pared who hails from the Warli tribe and lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Here she showcases how life-long poverty and deprivation affect people’s approach to life and livelihood.
Meet Mamta Pared
Mamta Pared is a young Adivasi woman hailing from the Warli community. She lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Her mother is unlettered, while her father was educated up to the fourth standard. After they got married, her parents started working together at a brick kiln. Every year, their family used to migrate for employment and live near brick kilns, six out of twelve months. There are five siblings, the youngest was born when Mamta was five years old. As the eldest daughter in the family, she was responsible for caring for her siblings, and also helped with household chores. She had to skip school frequently and stay home to take care of her brothers. But she studied hard, passed scholarship exams, stayed in a government hostel, even borrowed money to pay college fees. Mamta eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media.