I met you a couple of weeks ago. I was heading home from wherever, maybe Aundh, maybe not. I remember seeing the shop open, handing my rickshaw driver a crumpled 100 rupees and with a “keep the change” I glided out of the rickshaw and winded my way through the endless piles of cars and motorcycles. I hadn’t reached my home yet, and I didn’t really think on it long enough to care. It was only down the block and into the colony. Reaching the elevated footrest that only in India would be considered a street-side, I hopped up with a spring in my step and inspiration in my heart. I wanted twelve red roses that had just blossomed, and I wanted them gift wrapped.
As I gestured and used my best Hinglish, the little that I knew provided you with the information that you needed and you set straight to work making sure that my roses would be a work of art. I looked at the little stall where you put the pre-dressed flowers, the false and not quite fluorescent light illuminating them in a way that seemed to make them glitter. Looking closer, I realized that you had just sprinkled glitter on the flowers.
I turned my head away from the shop and looked on to the cars and motorcycles and the moon that brightened the night air in an unnatural and hazy way. Peering at the building construction site that I use as the marker for when to turn to my house, I questioned when the noise became a lul, what would happen to everything once I was gone? Would the building be finished before I left India, or would it remain as an unfinished reminder to someone, as are so many other concrete towers?
It was 8:09 pm, and I took photos of your hands wrapping the arrangement you had so carefully put together, and then my phone died. To be honest, it didn’t really matter, I was almost home. Thanking you, I asked for your name and told you in my thickest American accent, “Aap milkar kushi hui.” You seemed surprised that I would know the phrase. Seeing the elation on your face, the happiness that bloomed, I knew it, and I too was elated.
I left for home. It was only a 7-minute walk.
I hadn’t stopped thinking about you since we met. You’ve dwelled on my mind the way a muse does, and I wondered to myself what made me so stuck on the Florist down the road, the man that I had met only once before. I returned again on Valentine’s Day for two reasons. The first being a gift for my host family. The second to figure out what made you so special after such a short encounter. Seeing your face light up as I entered your shop and recognition dawned, I felt myself get excited to see you too. As you were cutting and sprucing up the second bundle of roses I bought from you, this time with the addition of some purple flowers and pink and white lollipops, I realized why you had become so captivating as you set to work on your next masterpiece of floral decoration. You remind me of the warmth of humanity; what good people become when their innocence and simple joy isn’t lost or ripped away. It makes me wonder if someone has ever looked at me and seen someone as I see you, or if I had not realized such happiness in a long time. Have I been able to strip away the weight of living, and in my barest form, find joy?
As I look back on these past few months, I recall laughing with my best friend as we ran away from the strange man who gave us permission to use an elevator, and remember crying for joy when I tasted a great pasta dish for the first time in months (that I hadn’t made myself). I have discovered a simple and peaceful joy that I haven’t felt in a very long time, and I cannot thank you enough, my florist down the road, for helping me recognize what a wonderful gift that you have given me.