VISAKHAPATNAM: The palm leaf fans once used to have a ubiquitous presence in the households, especially during the summer months. But with the advent of modified electrical products like inverters and generators, the traditional hand fans have slowly vanished from the scene. And pushed to the brink of existence are scores of families that depend on the sale of these fans.
Debt-ridden 60-year-old Palasa Appa Rao Babu comes to the city every day from Belum in Vizianagaram district to sell the fans. Like Appa Rao, there are more than 20 families in his mandal that have been involved in the business of making palm leaf fans and umbrellas since decades to earn a living.
After selling off his four acre land for a paltry sum of Rs.10,000 to repay loans, Appa Rao, who is the only breadwinner in his large family, was left with no other means of living. He has been selling these fans in neighbouring places and in the city since the past six years.
However, this year there has been no takers for his craft. “I have not been able to sell even a single fan out of the lot of 100 in the last three days. There used to be good demand for these fans three to four years back. But things have changed now,” he rues. He sells the fans for Rs.3 per piece. Hand fans, both fixed and revolving type, made up of palm leaves and bamboo strips used to have a market although they never got a facelift or found a place in the air-conditioned malls. The tropical climate and frequent power cuts had helped in the survival of the craft of making hand fans to some extent.
However, this traditional craft is fast fading off, thanks to the arrival of other alternatives in the market and a lack of patronage for this age-old craft.