I am…Manian

Manian Photo: Nita Sathyendran   | Photo Credit: Nita Sathyendran

Occupation: Sells bamboo ladders

Are you looking for short, medium or tall ladders? I have in stock sturdy, natural bamboo ladders of various lengths, from those with five rungs to those with 15 rungs. The 15-rung ones, the tallest of the lot, have an overall length of approximately 12m. They are usually the ladders of choice for construction work and for painters/cleaners when they need access to facades of double or triple-storey buildings. For home use, I would recommend the five-rung one. Or, I can customise a ladder for you, but that will take a bit of time. The ladders are priced at Rs. 500 for the five-rung ladder, with Rs. 100 for each extra rung.

I myself have handcrafted all the ladders at my home in Nedumcaud, Karamana. The bamboo stem for the side rails and the wood for the rungs are sourced locally. Bamboo is plentifully available all over the city and beyond – if you know where to look for it, that is. Bamboo plants usually grow wherever there is plenty of shade. In the city, there are huge clusters of it by the banks of the Karamana and Kalady rivers. There are plenty in Kowdiar too – the forested area beside just inside the palace compound; in Vazhayila; in Maruthankuzhy and the Udiyannnor temple area; Kundamonkadavu…

I usually use the ‘ola’ variety of bamboo for the ladders. After 25 years in the business – I am 59, now – I can now make out if a particular bamboo stem has the lakshanam [characteristic trait] to make it a good side rail for a ladder. This would involve certain physical factors such as straightness, sturdiness and thickness – it should not split when I carve holes into it to fit the rungs.

The rungs are made of the wood of Anjili tree or jackfruit, depending on availability. I can assure you that my bamboo ladders are as sturdy as any aluminium ladder. Each bamboo ladder will last for about two to three years before the inevitable disintegration of wood sets in – the bamboo that I use has not been treated with chemicals, which may stop disintegration. I also make henhouses and bird cages out of bamboo and cane and wooden window and door frames too.

It was my late grandfather Joseph who taught me the tricks of the trade of being a carpenter. These days, though, I am not so much into wooden carpentry as it’s too strenuous a job for my age. I prefer working with bamboo and selling my wares by the side of the road adjacent to Killippalam bridge (the road that connects Karamana to Attukal temple). I’ve been at this location for around five years now but like all roadside vendors I have to keep shifting according to the whims and fancies of the authorities and also to accommodate the increasing traffic. I’m here almost every day of the week, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thankfully, I have enough of customers to make a small living for myself, my wife, Lalitha, and my daughter, Sandhya.

(A weekly column on the men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 3:49:36 PM |

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