It took about seven months before Hariharan Poiyamozhi could properly string a flower garland. Giving up was not an option as Hariharan’s father wanted him to take over the flower stall he had been operating for over 13 years in Puchong, Selangor.
Hariharan did eventually take over the family business (three years ago), and says that it is the best decision he has made career-wise. “Don’t think my father has retired from this business altogether though. He has only moved to Johor and is running a flower stall there,” says Hariharan, 24, with a smile.
Located on the foot of a small hill, the modest flower stall is easily spotted even from a distance. Buckets of brightly coloured flowers are lined at the front, while some garlands hang prettily, attracting potential buyers who drive along the road.
“Most of my customers purchase the flowers and garlands for prayers at temples or their homes,” he says. Open from 7am to 10pm daily, Hariharan only closes the stall for two days during Deepavali every year.
A selection of carnations and roses is delivered freshly from Cameron Highlands, Pahang, and Hariharan gets his jasmines from a supplier in Kuala Lumpur. “The jasmines are imported from Thailand. It is difficult to find that flower in bulk in Malaysia anymore,” the florist surprisingly reveals.
It takes between 10 minutes to a few hours to string a garland, depending on the intricacy of the design. Even when answering questions during the interview, Hariharan’s fingers deftly tie the jasmine buds together, without breaking eye contact.
There is a rhythm to his work, often accompanied by the trusty radio by his side, playing top 40 songs from the Tamil film industry. He hums to the songs, stopping only to talk to his workers.
“I don’t get bored. There is always something to do. I tend to my customers, deal with the suppliers, and think of new ways to design the garlands. My most important job however is to make sure the flowers remain fresh all day,” he shares.
Hariharan isn’t worried about the fate of his business. Just like how he took over the flower stall from his father, he is very sure that he would pass it on to someone else, too. Most likely his own children.
“There aren’t many young people who are interested in learning this particular skill, but that doesn’t mean that it would die off soon. You don’t have to be young to learn how to string flowers, which means that anyone at any age can pick it up and keep the tradition going,” says Hariharan.
“For as long as people prays, there will be a need for garlands, and until then, this business will be around.”