Pulicat women weave a livelihood with palm leaves
While many consider it fashionable to sport cloth bags or those made
of jute, paper and other eco-friendly products, for some, it goes beyond
making a fashion statement. Take S. Thameen Beevi, for instance. The
70-year-old carries her frayed palm leaf basket wherever she goes.
"It has become a little dirty. But I have had this basket for at
least five years now and what's more, I made it myself," she says
proudly. Ms. Beevi is one of the few women in Pulicat who still makes
baskets from palm leaves. "I learnt the craft from my mother and she, in
turn, was taught by my grandmother. Earlier, we made simple baskets. But
now we make colourful ones that can be put to various uses. We make
cellphone covers, purses, boxes, and many such things," she says, mixing
different dyes to colour the palm leaves.
They get the leaves from villages like Elavuru, Gummidipoondi and
Mangavaram. The dyes procured from George Town are mixed with boiling
water. Interestingly, she does not use a scale to measure the quantities
of the different powders or consult notes to get the right mix. "It is
all in the mind," she smiles. Her daughter S. Fathima is not an expert
at mixing the dyes. She is however extremely quick when it comes to
making the baskets.
"I don't go out much but work from home. The palm leaves are
delivered at our doorstep. We buy a bunch of about 100 leaves for Rs.
1,000 and split them among the women in the neighbourhood. A single
person cannot afford a whole bunch," she says. The palm fronds are first
dried and then the leaves are cut to size, dyed and dried, and then
fashioned into different kinds of bags.
M. Ayesha, a neighbour, says the women here are happy making a
livelihood out of weaving palm leaves. "We earn more than before by
making such products.
Though it is a lot of work, we don't mind," she says. The women earn
around Rs. 75 per basket and each of them makes up to five baskets a
- The Hindu