She woke up from the sleep by a rude disturbance, “Quick, you don’t have time!” her mother screamed into her ears which shook her awake. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and walked nimbly to the courtyard. While she splashed water and cleaned- a basket full of jasmines waited for her patiently. In a swift movement she picked it up and headed to the Temple. “Mala, don’t stay out too long. Come back for lunch!” her mother instructed with concern.
Mala, was a girl of ten. She had grown up seeing her dad come home with a huge sack for fresh flowers. Her parents would then carpet the floor with jute bags and splash water over it. She would sit still and watch as they continued this chore religiously each day. The flowers would be spread on the wet jute sacks. Her dad would chop off the green stalks while her mother meticulously strung the colourful flowers together in beautiful garlands. Different scents signified different seasons. But there was one constant the- Jasmine, her mother had explained was a fragrant emblem of gratitude to the lord, the princess of flowers. And, it was bought all round the year hence forming a source for steady income into their family.
In the initial years had mother had tagged her along because she didn’t want to leave the child alone but the girl grew to become and more interested in the profession, till she decided she should manage to sell a basket of Jasmines all by herself. So this was one of those early morning when she would walk to the nearby temple, offer the best flower in the basket to the Lord and carry on with the selling to return back only when the basket was empty.
She walked from one street to another, identifying people who were likely to buy a garland of flowers it was then that she saw this woman. A thirty something lady, frantically searching for something from her purse. Mala waited till the lady’s mission was accomplished and then took a step towards her bright blue car, flowers hung from her printed cotton bag as she stretched her little arm and propped it on the car window, “Just Rs.10 per garland” The lady’s face softened with the scent of fresh jasmine. She smiled and cheerfully paid for a garland. When Mala was about to walk back when the lady called out to her softly,”Hey! Thank you”
Mala didn’t know what it meant. She thought about that pleasant expression on that woman’s face. A warm and beaming smile as she spoke those two words- “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Mala repeated it trying to smile as she lay on her bed before the final moments of sleep dawned upon her. The next day she asked her friend Appu, “Do they teach- Thank you in your night school?” Her little companion jumped with glee,” They do! They do! It means- Thanks-gratitude” before she could ask anything else Appu disappeared into the market to continue her selling. Mala sat at the exact location as yesterday wishing she would see the lady again. While she waited, “Thank you Thank you.” She practiced the expression till she got it correct. It moved her deeply to be able to say those two words.
The following day when her mother woke her up she uttered the magical words, “Thank you. Thank you Amma.” The baffled expression of her mom eased when she saw Mala smile. “I am grateful.” Her mother smiled and carried on with the day. Mala did the same things she did everyday but today each interaction ended with “Thank you.” When people bought garlands from her she smiled beaming, expressing her gratitude- “Thank you.” She managed to empty the basket much earlier than ever and there was this immense peace, a little joy when she saw people smile as she said those miraculous words. It was in the late evening, when she saw the lady in the blue car, before she could reach her, the car had moved keeping pace with the change in the traffic signal. Mala held the last garland of Jasmines, she had kept aside just in case she saw the lady in the blue car again. A fragrant emblem of gratitude, coupled with two words from the depth of her heart which she murmured to the lady who faded into the crowd, - “Thank You!” and a smile bent her lips and lightened her heart.