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It's 3.30 in the afternoon at Gholegaon village, 25 km from Pune. As other members of the family take a nap, 42-year-old Mohan Choudhary makes the best of the serene hours. He sits on the floor with bunches of orchids, roses, tulips, buds of pinwheel flowers, the Chinese asparagus, scissors, a needle and reels of thread. There is an engagement ceremony in a nearby village and he has bagged the order for making the varmalas and jaali (garland and headgear) for the bride-to-be. Stringing the flowers scrupulously, he says, "I have been doing this for 27 years. I cannot recall who started this trend in our village but now more than 80 per cent of the men here travel to different parts of the country in the wedding season for flower work. I mostly go to Mumbai."
"My grand-uncle passed on the skill to my father and he passed it on to me. All of us do farming but this gives us an additional income, around Rs 1.25 lakh a year," says 34-year-old Duryodhan Choudhary, who has come to help Mohan. They say around 300 people from Gholegaon had gone to Lucknow in 2010 for flower decoration at the grand wedding of industrialist Subrata Roy's son.
If the function is at a nearby village or in Pune, people bring the raw material home and work there. Every home in this village of 6,000 has a refrigerator in which the flowers are stored till they are dispatched. However, at all weddings, big or small, the main decoration is done at the venue. Due to the intricate artistry, sometimes an order can take days of work. A single varmala takes around three hours. "Recently, two of us decorated the car for a groom and that took us almost 12 hours," says Mohan Choudhary. He gets flowers mostly from Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata.
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