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Kerala woman breaks the coconut ceiling
April 22, 2008 15:07 IST
Powered by sheer self-confidence, a local woman has embarked upon the unusual task of plucking nuts from coconut trees, so far a male bastion. Sharmila, 37, can swiftly pluck nuts by climbing steep coconut trees of any height, providing much needed relief to people staying nearby, as the youth are increasingly distancing themselves from the traditional job.
Kerala [Images], the land of coconuts, is facing an acute shortage of skilled labour. A resident of Pallikkara panchayat in Kasaragod district, Sharmila, working as a part-time government servant, utilises her spare time to pluck coconuts, using a manually operated gadget. She climbs up around 10 to 15 coconut trees a day, charging Rs 10 per a tree as she finds extra income to meet mounting expenses. "As I started taking up the unusual job, my neighbours and people nearby stared at me in disbelief and awe, wondering whether a woman can and should take up this highly risky job. But today I am a much sought after person as I promptly oblige their urgent calls to pluck coconuts from tiny holdings."
Sharmila said, "My decision to take up this rare but unfamiliar job for a woman came after my husband's desperate plea to some workers to pluck coconuts from the newly purchased land on the eve of the house warming ceremony of our new house went unheard," she said. "Later, seeking the blessings of God and my father, I resolved to take up the risky job. My husband Clitus, a construction worker, cooperated with me after some hesitation," Sharmila, the mother of two children, said.
The first opportunity to try on the machine came after Sharmila managed to slowly climb smaller coconut trees, using the manual gadget bought by her father when she visited his residence. " I decided to take leave from the part-time job to devote time for practice and handling the gadget on various types of coconut trees. Today I am able to climb up coconut trees of any height," Sharmila, who also knows chair weaving, stitching and embroidery, says.
Inspired by her feat, a few young girls tried to follow suit using the gadget. But they had to withdraw from their attempt as they felt giddy after reaching a certain height. Sharmila's daughter Dincy is now trying her hands on the machine and the little one's only complaint is that her friends and classmates refuse to acknowledge her newly acquired skills.
Sharmila nevertheless faces unsavoury comments and remarks from certain quarters. Unfazed, she is prepared to face such challenges quietly.