IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that next time you’re working on the flower vase, give a thought to the Mallick Ghat Flower Market on the banks of the Ganges River in Kolkata (Calcutta as most of us still think of it.)
Because here in the biggest flower market in Asia, something like 2,500 vendors a day trade fresh-cut flowers by the hundreds of kilograms… some 1,500-plus tonnes in fact, brought in daily from farms 60kms or more out of town.
Name a warmth-loving flower and you’ll find it at Mallick Ghat. Travel writing colleague, Roderick Eime who was there just recently discovering the markets to be a fascinating if chaotic 15- to 18-hours a day of frenzied bidding, bargaining and bustle as vendors and buyers haggle over prices.
And almost cry as you learn that marigolds change hands from as low 60 rupees (AU$1) for a one kilogram bunch, 25 cut roses for just $3.50, wedding garlands a measly 400 rupees ($8) – with equally eye-watering prices for everything from sweet peas and sunflowers, to orchids and gladioli.
But Roderick warns that while Mallick Ghat’s certainly worth a visit during a stay in Calcutta, be ready to splash around a muddy calamity under-foot, and to be constantly jostled amid the competitive crowds.
As well, being right alongside the sacred Ganges, prepare too for the sights of the faithful undertaking everything in the holy waters from religious bathing and washing to other activities normally reserved for the bathroom.
It’s all, Roderick says, something of an assault on the senses, with the fragrant perfume of those tonnes of flowers, competing with the ever-present aroma of one of India’s busiest, most densely populated and over-crowded cities.
FLOWERS by the hundreds of kilograms… some 1,500 tonnes in fact that change hands daily at Kolkata (Calcutta) Mallick Ghat Flower Markets at prices to make you cry. (R Eime)