So why write a book on the jasmine? To begin with, I wasn’t very clear about this, but after constant visits to the flower weavers, seeing them at work, listening to their stories, and witnessing the early morning ritual of the picking of the buds, day after day, I realized that the jasmine has a special relevance, as the lives and stories of the jasmine weavers are woven into each length of jasmine they string. And this will truly come alive only if we know what happens behind the scenes. Also, traditionally, the jasmine has held an important position in the day-to-day lives of Indians and it is hoped that the publication of this book will not only showcase this magical flower in a befitting manner, but also encourage the jasmine weavers to feel a justifiable sense of pride in their craft.

Much of the information in this book has been culled from interviews with malligai farmers, flower sellers, agents and exporters, not to mention my own affinity with this ancient temple city that I call home. From the very beginning, it seemed as if this book had a mind of its own, and what started off as a brief ‘fact file’ eventually evolved into an exploration of the malligai ’s unique links with Madurai and the lives of its weavers, and of innovative ideas for enhancing their means of livelihood.