Nothing can beat ‘Olakkuda’, proves a woman in her 60s in Kannur, indigenous occupation, handicrafts, olakkuda, palm leaf products

Taliparamba: K Devi of Puliparamba of Kannur, engaged in making palm leaf umbrellas or ‘olakkudas’, has new hopes as her business shows signs of recovery from the pandemic blues. The notoriety of the 68-year-old woman’s ‘olakkudas’ has even reached Dubai despite very few takers for the product as it has become obsolete in the modern world. However, many people approach her to buy these traditional umbrellas for temple festivals, events and video productions.

Devi sells umbrellas at Rs 1000 per piece directly to customers. If the intermediaries take it to sell them, then they will give Rs 800 per piece. According to Devi, it will take two days to complete the job of an umbrella. Devi pointed out that even though she could earn Rs 800 in a day by engaging in daily pay jobs, she pursues this endeavor out of devotion and respect for her ancestral craft.

In particular, Devi has been practicing this profession since the age of 13, following the death of her parents. She learned the trade from her parents.

Devi’s husband has died after eight years of marriage. She was then the mother of two children aged three months and three years. To earn a living, she does various jobs. For 27 years, she worked as a worker on the head carrying pieces of rock. Now she is involved in small-scale agriculture and raises chickens and ducks. Interestingly, in addition to all these jobs, she finds time to make palm tree umbrellas.
When the demand for ‘olakkudas’ declined, Devi also geared up to make the ‘naatikkuda’, ‘Thalakuda’ and ‘plaakoodu’ used by farmers. She also does ‘kazchakuda and ‘veerankuda’.

According to Devi, finding raw materials to make these handmade products is a difficult task. She collects it from distant places by going there directly. As a result, she gets meager yields.

Devi wants to teach this craft to other people and hopes this craft will stand the test of time. The return to normal after the pandemic crisis gives him hope.

Michael A. Bynum