Summary / Review / Appreciation

The Price of Flowers is a touching story by Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadyay.  The story is set in London in the pre independence era.  It is narrated through the point of view of Mr Gupta,  an Indian civil servant undergoing training in London.

Mr Gupta meets a teenaged girl in a restaurant.  Her interest in him arouses his curiosity.  He later becomes friends with her and learns her story.  She lives with her widowed mother in a poor neighbourhood.  Her only brother Frank is in India serving the British army.  They have no information from him for several months and they are worried. 

When Mr Gupta visits their home Mrs Clifford, the mother requests him to look in to the crystal on a ring sent by Frank from India.  They believe that the ring has magical powers and a Hindu will be able to see the future and past if he concentrates on the crystal.  Mr Gupta tries but fails.  This disappoints her. 

Later Mrs Clifford falls ill.  Maggie requests him to look once again into the crystal and tell her mother that Frank is alright.  As this will help her to recover, he agrees to tell this harmless lie.  But by the time he tells this, Frank was already dead.  When Mr Gupta returns to India, Maggie gives him one shilling to buy flowers for Frank’s grave. 

The story is a really touching one.  The one shilling that Maggie gives him is hard earned money.  At first Mr Gupta thinks of returning it.   But later he decides to take it as he does not want to deny her this joy of sacrifice.  What is the price of those flowers?  It is not certainly one shilling.  The flowers are priceless when we consider Maggie’s feelings towards her brother.  So the title of the story is an apt one.

The western misconception of India is revealed through the words of Maggie and Mrs Clifford on many occasions.  The story opens and ends with the meeting between Mr Gupta and Maggie.  The characters are portrayed with utmost care.  The careful selection of words and phrases arranged in a simple language adds to the beauty of the story.  There is an abundance of dialogues in the story, which helps the reader to build an emotional connection with the characters.