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Nagercoil: Learning about natural fiber

Nagercoil: Learning about natural fiber

Tamil Nadu sells the worst alcohol possible in the whole world. With this government-controlled system, there are so many unknown brands that generally will not sell anywhere else. I was happy that I woke up without a hangover (Though I had just 2 bottles of an unknown brand of beer). We got ready as quickly as possible, said our goodbyes to our hosts and hit the road to meet few more artisans before heading to Tirunelveli. We had planned to travel to some of the places near Marthandam today and we quickly worked with Google aunty (maps navigator) and figured out the best possible route to take. We first went to Karungal where we met an artisan working with palm leaf in making interesting artwork and utility products. Ms. Tangam has been doing this over the last 40 years and has seen some great days when her artwork was sold across the country. Now she struggles to eke out a living. She was so happy to meet us and saw hope in us, and had the confidence that we could change the course for this art and get more people interested in this art form. Having had a great discussion we started off to the next location, Etany. We went to see a cooperative where women worked on pillow lace. This is hand made lace made by a group of 20 – 25 women. The precision and complexity of the handmade lace amazed us. We recorded the speed with which a woman was creating lace work. It takes more than a couple of days for the most experienced artist to create one complete piece of work. Mary Shanti, who was one of the experienced artists, took as through the facility and showcased the different designs. This Self Help Group (SHG) is supporting the livelihoods of many families in the small town of Karungal. With this mesmerized feeling, we moved to the next town of Samiyarmadam where we went in search of the national award-winning artisan who works on banana fiber in making brilliant artwork and utility products. The conditions of these artists are similar across the district – poor, living on meager earnings and the art is unable to make their life sustainable. Mrs. & Mr. Saravanan enthusiastically showed us all the work they had done and encouraged us on our endeavor to bring these dying art forms back to mainstream customers. With that encouragement we finished the day of meetings.

I called my friend Antony and fixed a lunch date with him at his house. This gave me an opportunity to meet his parents and his wife. As usual, my friend tells his family at the last minute and they had to make some quick dishes to feed us. After a nice home cooked lunch, we decided to take some time off our hectic fieldwork and go visit this amazing canal structure connecting two mountains called Mathur Thottipalam. Post engineering, in 2003, I came to Antony’s place and stayed at their house for almost a week. It was one of my most memorable holidays where Antony and I rode around in a bike across the length and breadth of Kanyakumari district. One such place we visited was this. It was so etched in my memory that I wanted to go back to this place again. We reached the Thottipalam that runs at a height of about 150 meters and has a narrow walkway alongside the canal. It has one of the most mesmerising views of the entire ghat section and the reserved forest. We reached the location and it started pouring. It was refreshing rain that lasted for about an hour and sent a cool breeze across the valley. We went in the rain and stood at the middle of the elevated pathway and enjoyed the complete view of the mountains. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful Nagercoil is and such amazing locations that have not been explored much by tourists. With this refreshing experience, we headed back to Antony’s place, dropped my friend, and started our journey to Tirunelveli. We will stop here to travel across this district and meet more artisans in the coming days.

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