“My father, Manas Will, was a woodcutter and he taught me the trick of the trade. I started off at the age of 12 by clearing fields, chopping fire wood and then moved on to felling trees,” says Wilson, who is 62. Mathematics, he says, is involved while felling a tree, especially when using its wood for furniture. “There is a different set of measurements when you intend to use the wood from the tree for say a door or windows,” says this man who has studied only up to class two.
“With high rises coming up at every nook and corner, trees are a rarity. As I am one of the few woodcutters in my neighbourhood, people know me and so they call me when they need my assistance. Chopping down trees at homes is tough at times when trees grow close to the house. One has to be careful that the tree or branches doesn’t fall on the house.” So, does he do odd jobs to earn extra income? “I used to but now my health isn’t the way it used to be. I also have problems with my eyes.”
But although Wilson has bad eye sight, his ailment does not prevent him from doing his job properly. “I had problems with my eye even as a child. In those days, doctors were rare and eye ailments and the like were rarely treated. I can see things up close and can thread a needle perfectly but have a problem viewing things from afar. Felling a tree is no problem for me as the way to do it, right from how to measure the tree in height, to which angle to chop it, to which direction it will fall… all is ingrained in me.”
His job, can be dangerous, he says. Once, while felling a tree, he was severely injured and the doctors told him he would not be able to walk again. The fighting spirit in him however, had him on his feet in three months.
Wilson, who hails from Aruvikkara, is currently settled in Peroorkada with his wife, Pitchi. His wife too helps him at work. “She usually helps out when the tree requires a bit of work when chopping down. There are just a handful of people, especially youngsters, who are involved in this field. Not many learn the art of woodcutting as it does not generate a steady or fat income. The next generation will find it tough to find expert loggers. But then with the fast advancement of technology, I am sure they will develop some kind of machine to help them,” he says.
(A weekly column on men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)