[Image © Thomas Totz]
While I was picking up books at Framingham Public Library today morning, I observed an elderly lady who seemed so engrossed as she was knitting a little sweater (lucky grandson ;)). What caught my attention though was this array of peacock blue flowers in the yellow sweater she was knitting - the pattern had such an amazing appeal ! As I was walked past the lady and took a closer look at the pattern of flowers-I uttered Sahiiiiiiiiiii! (translates to fascinating or amazing) to myself and felt quite elated inside.
Thanks to VTS training at Danforth, I asked myself right away-"What makes you say that?". Is it the use of cool colors?, Is it the hatched pattern in the sweater?, Is it the expression on lady's face?, Is it the marked outline of flowers?, Do you associate a past experience with this pattern? And bingo-that was it. The floral pattern reminded me instantly of an arrangement by a master floral artist, who I met at Gorakhpur while I was in India earlier this year. This mental association happened in split seconds-I don't know how or why but I was certainly intrigued to the core.
Upon reaching home, as I took my journal out-an overwhelming flood of memories comprising of my QA session with this floral artist rushed past me in rapid succession. I collected my toughts and decided to pen down the interesting story of this floral artist and share the same here.
In real world, this floral artist has a tough engineering job, a caring family and like rest of us he faces usual set of challenges. But come lunar month of Bhaadra (Many Indians consider this month auspicious and celebrate goddess Radha's birthday), no matter in which part of India he is residing in, he rushes towards Gorakhpur to do his floral magic (localites call it Shringar) and he has been doing this fascinating exercise since 1974! I observed him closely for couple of hours & I could positively conclude that in this case motivation wasn't tied to related to money/fame or any materialistic gain.
I was so impressed with this floral pattern he created on that memorable night 26-AUG-2009 and more specifically with his style that I ended up asking him a plethora of questions. Some of the QAs (translated into English) are as under:
Q> How do you envision what pattern you are going to draw?
A> I usually make a rough illustration of the pattern using sticks or fingers on this area towards left under this Bael tree. Since the ground here covered with sand, drawing becomes quite easy.
Q> I heard that this floral decoration takes around 4 to 6 hours to complete. Why do you spend so much of energy knowing the fact that this pattern of flowers will last for not more than few hours?
A> While I do keep a conscious track of time during the process, but this decoration does take good amount of time for it needs to be perfect from all viewpoints. Regarding your concern about short life of this decoration-isn't everything in life ephemeral? (Smiled)
[Slide Show - Floral Design]
Q> Hmmmm, you mentioned viewpoints - can you pls elaborate?
A> Sure, the pattern must look symmetric and aesthetic from all directions - front view, side view, view from the top and even the isometric view. And then there are other perception related points I keep in mind such as-the flowers will appear smaller as an observer moves away since the visual angle an individual flower makes on the eye decreases. Also, contrast, harmony, space need to be kept in mind. It is all quite systematic like an ED-you did study ED in your engineering right?
Q> ED (Gulp!) -Oh yes I had that course in my 1st year but I assumed that only architects use it on a regular basis. Anyways moving on (pls don't ask me those esoteric ED concepts :)) - what are the materials you use for this decorative pattern?
A> Well - it's usually leaves and flowers. I prefer gulmohar leaves and petals of flowers such as marigold, rajnigandha, jasmine, sadabahar, champa (plumeria), red roses etc. I used to go pick them up myself two decades ago but I get them from local flower sellers these days.
Q> Why flowers and not the electronic lamp lights or any modern media for decoration?
A> Flowers invite genuine emotional responses, which are universal and not culture specific. Everyone-a child, a man,a woman, a couple, group of friends can relate to flowers. Let me put it in simpler way-While a single red rose always conveys love, a dozen daisies convey friendship, a garland hung around a person's neck conveys respect and a bouquet of mixed roses conveys shared sorrow-think about it. (Smiles again)
Q> Awesome!! You mean flowers are like universal messengers of emotions?
A> Absolutely. Chalo Chalo (Time to go)- there are so many things pending and it is quite late now-you should leave. Good luck young man and remember the lifecycle of a flower- "Uthoo, Jaaago and Khilooo" [Rise, Awake and Blossom] as you explore the world.
Upon waking up next morning, I raced to the spot with my camera to see the aesthetic floral arrangement. I could hear so many "Wowss", 'Ahaass", "Superbs" & "Sahiiiiss" from observers around, who sure admired the floral arrangement a lot. When I analyzed the snaps later, the artistic pattern seemed so symmetric exactly as he had said.
I hope to visit India in the month of भाद्रपद sometime again to see him do his floral artistry, which I can best describe as an "Organic marvel of flowers & leaves and joy & delight"!
"Sweet flowers alone can say what passion fears revealing"~Thomas Hood