|Sheej, first woman toddy tapper in Kerala thenewsminute.com|
Hailing from Panniyode in Kannur district, Kerala State C. Sheeja, aged 33 has the credit of being the first woman tapper of toddy in the state. Tapping toddy from palm coconut trees is a job meant for men who dominate the field for the simple reason it requires good health and courage to climb tall coconut trees to tap the sap. The toughest job is perching at dizzy height the tapper has to fix an earthen pot to the stump of the palm flower to extract sap.
|tough job of fixing pot to collect sap. woman toddy tapper. thehindu.com|
|Sheeja Kerala's first woman toddy tapper. thehindu.com|
Though her husband initially had reservation, later he allowed her to take over his vocation. His concern was her safety as the job is unfit for women. Not withstanding the fact that her brother, a toddy tapper, had died after a fatal fall from the tree and reservation and taunts in the neighborhood, she took a firm determination to be a tapper. She had to start from the scratch right from learning how to climb coconut trees and how to tap the sap from the flower to extract toddy carefully perching at great heights. Both she and her husband had to tackle social stigma associated with toddy tapping by woman.
Her husband Jayakumar taught her the nuances of toddy tapping by starting with shorter trees and allowed her to climb tall trees only after she had gained confidence and experience. In the early phases, she had reservation about the job as she found tree climbing a tough one. After persistent training and encouragement from her husband, Sheeja gained enough experience to climb trees with ease.
Like numerous Kerala women, she is a maverick and difficult challenges do not dampen her fighting qualities.