There is a saying in Tamil- 'Kada thengaya eduthu Vazhi pullayaarukku odakkaradu.' The effect of the adage may get lost in translation....but the nearest I can get to in Queen's English is 'To rob Paul to pay Peter'... In Bhadravathi, it is an art in itself. Here unseen hands don't think twice about pilfering what doesn't belong to them. Pedestrians make an art of picking flowers as they walk past houses with shrubs laden with flowers. The place is still inhabited by people who adorn their hair with flowers (another vanishing species)... and those regularly going to temple every morning... But jasmine which is common in Tamil Nadu, is rarer in these parts. They are nurtured in select homes. generally jasmine is 'imported' from other states and is rather expensive...We have a poor country cousin called 'Kakada' which looks similar to jasmine but lacks its fragrance, the haunting lingering smell. Also'kanakambaram' is very scarce ... the commoner here is a purple one called 'spatika'...what we used to call December flower. I used to enjoy the combination of jasmine, margam and kanakaambaram... which looks and smells divine... Wearing flowers used to be passion in my salad days... the long hair I used to tote those days complemented the beauty of the flowers. Today, with a shoulder length hair styled and maintained for sheer convenience, my 'flower tucking' days are passe. I get side tracked... As I was saying, flowers are an integral part of South Indian existence. Growing flowering shrubs is mandatory in most homes as flowers are offered during morning prayers to all the family dieties. So generally compounds would have varieties of hibiscus, parijatha, mandaara, chrysanthemum, bell flowers and any other variety that is considered worthy of being offered to God. Other than these, there are Musanda, Ixoras, bougainvilles and marigolds... When my in laws were in Bokaro, they had a fantastic garden with wide varieties of roses and colourful patches of seasonals fringing their lawn. She used to have asters, chrysanthemums, cosmos, phlox, dahlias, petunias, zinnias and lilies winning them prizes, every year! Now, in Bhadravathi, they has stopped maintaining flowering shrubs as pilferers are aplenty. After many rose shrubs vanished even without traces of their roots... they have stopped caring. Now the compound has only the flowers which are used for puja. But we have a tough time warding off pilferers. Like I said in the beginning, robbing Peter to pay Paul is an art perfected by some locals here. There are those early marauders who creep along the compound wall before day break and pluck all the flowers off...for their homes. Then there are the 'morning worshippers' who, on their way to the nearby temple, religiously (pardon the pun) help themselves to flowers which they offer to God... in the hope that Gods don't know the source from where these offerings came! Then there are those futuristic ones... They pluck the buds off the shrubs in the evenings and at dusk, so that they can force it to blossom in a dish of water for the next day! In fact, a particular rich man in the area had a habit of stealing flowers on his way to the tempe and his argument was that the offering of stolen flowers is more sacred than the flowers bought with one's money! Fine logic for justifying his crime! I should not say it is an affliction in Bhadravathi only. In my childhood, in Trichur, we used to get gutsy flower thieves...who would scale the high walls around the house to pluck flowers. My grandma used to console herself saying, anyway, my 'Thiruvambadi Krishnan' will get it... So what if I don't get to offer it to him! But the very thought of someone stealing it used to get our goats. Yet, we as children never thought twice while throwing stones at mangoes in the neighbour's compound! Many a battle of words are waged on these flowers. The rage of the house owner who waters and maintains his garden is understandable, I suppose. There is some kind of justification for stealing... say by a poor man. But to steal flowers and even full flowering plants is a crime unpardonable! But the saga continues here... Culprits once caught, exonerate themselves by helping catch other thieves....and vindicate themselves... I know it is incurable... it is bloomin' kleptomania...!