Hyderabad: A 25-year-old Purra Savithri from Regode village near Narayankhed Mandal of Medak is the only woman toddy tapper in the district and presently, perhaps the only one in the State. She holds the tree trunk in a tight embrace, wraps the pashki around her legs, ties a traditional brown jug or pot to her waist and climbs a palm tree to collect the toddy.
Each day, she climbs eight to ten palm trees and at the end of the day, makes an earning of Rs 400. Leaving for work each day at 5 am, she walks down 8-km to collect a maximum of 50 litres of toddy which is sold at Rs 15 a litre. Once the exercise of collecting the toddy is done, she sits on the roadside waiting for consumers.
It was the death of her husband, who was a toddy tapper that pushed Savithri, once a homemaker, to learn how to climb palm trees and collect the sap. In the beginning, she tried to learn by climbing younger and shorter trees and now is comfortable getting to the bigger trees also.
“I have been struggling to keep the family of five going after my husband’s sudden death and took over his vocation despite the stigma,” said Savithri, who has four and eight-year-old children.
It’s been three years since she started tapping toddy and selling it. It wasn’t an easy task for her to convince her parents. “Many asked me to stop selling toddy and get into some other line of work. I still face so much negativity. Some even stopped talking to me because of my work. But I never let it affect me,” she adds.
Her daughter suffered a paralytic stroke and is bedridden ever since. Her father-in-law is an immobile person and every month, almost Rs 6,000 goes for their treatment. “At times, I experience dizziness and muscular pain. At one point, I even thought of giving up. But there was no other option. I continued doing it since my family depends on me alone for survival. Now I’m quite the expert,” she adds. The Excise Department issued her Tree For Tappers (TFT) licence that allows her to extract sap from 30 palm trees a day.
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