A plump, garrulous woman as dark as the night sky, the flower woman would bring several strings of fresh jasmine for the gods and goddesses in our puja room. My mother liked her cheerfulness, especially in light of her situation. She had three young children, who were attending the free government school. Her husband was a drunk who beat her for her daily earnings. Rather than belabor her woes, the flower woman had found an ingenious solution.
Every day she gave my mother most of her money to put in the bank. My mother had a faded old notebook for this purpose, and every day she entered the amount that she received from the flower woman. Next to every entry my mother signed her name and the flower woman laboriously scrawled her name in Tamil; she could write little else. At the end of the month my dad tallied up everything and told the flower woman her monthly savings. For performing these duties, the flower woman gave my mother a free string of jasmine.
With her savings, the flower woman planned to buy a gold necklace. She wore tattered saris given to her by her customers; her husband had no livelihood; her home was a tiny thached hut in the slums; but like all Indian women, the flower woman, too, lusted after gold, and after two years of scrimping and saving she treated herself to a heavy necklace.
– Shoba Narayan. Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes.