July 31, 2019
Kochi: Challenges make people bold and open doors of opportunities to the daring like this housewife who has perhaps become Kerala’s first woman toddy tapper.
Sheeja (32) had never in her dream seen the tough times she had faced after her husband Jayakumar (40) met with a road accident last year, making it impossible to pursue his job of toddy tapping.
He felt like the sky crashing on him as the income stopped suddenly and there was nothing left to fend the family living in the hilly Poozhiyode in Chittariparamba in Kannur district.
“We managed to pull on some months with great difficulty. Problems started when the time came for school reopening,” Jayakumar told The Covai Post.
“No one was willing to extend a helping hand to the family. It was then Sheeja came out with the idea of taking over his job.
Initially, it appeared fearful to Jayakumar as he could not even imagine his wife climbing tall coconut trees in the forest area. He was also worried about the social barriers that prevented women from venturing in to such areas.
But Sheeja was bold and confident as she came from a family of toddy tappers. Her brother had died after falling from a coconut tree.
After much thinking, he realised that it was the only practical way to solve their problem.
But the real challenge was to teach her the technique of climbing coconut trees. For this he identified young trees to train her. “Initially it was a taxing exercise. We thought of abandoning the plan as it appeared impossible for her to learn it. But there was no other option. Then we decided that we are going to try until we tasted success,” he said.
Finally, she managed to climb on a tree without much difficulty. She leaves in the morning accompanied by their dog Chemban and scales eight trees a day after which she takes up other works coming under job guarantee scheme.
Ajitha Ravindran, panchayat member of the Poozhiyode ward, who learnt about Sheeja’s job said, “It was by accident I came to know about it. I am fully behind her and the panchayat will do whatever possible to support the children Vishhnu in Grade VIII and Vismaya in Grade V. Chittariparamba panchayat president U P Shobha has also promised all help.