Kerala

A constant battle for her to make two ends meet

Sreedevi T.  

There are a few moments that stand out in her life, that pushed her to go on even when she was buffeted by ill-fortune. And it is to them that Sreedevi T. of Kattakada clings to as she breaks down gender stereotypes one after another.

Today, she is a coconut climber, dog-catcher, farmer, and a snake-catcher. Sreedevi’s life has been a series of struggles. Abandoned by their father, Sreedevi and her sister, and a mentally ill mother were taken care of by their grandmother. At times, her mother would be thrashed up by people. Swamped by feelings of helplessness and isolation, she dropped out of school to take care of her mother. Then, she started working - peeling cashews, weaving palm fronds, doing domestic work, as a shopgirl, and tapped rubber. Slowly, she saved some money.

Marriage at the age of 18 followed, but it was not all smooth. With two children and a mother dependent on her, Sreedevi learnt how to use farm machinery, grow coconut saplings, climb coconut trees, and drive autorickshaws. She had to face a lot of barbs, but soldiered on.

Just as life seemed to be looking up, she lost sensation on one side below the waist. Six months of treatment followed. When she lost hope, a physician, Suresh, encouraged her to believe in herself. By then, she was deep in debt. Four years ago, Sreedevi heard about the Kudumbashree mission training women to catch stray dogs. She completed the training, became part of an Animal Birth Control (ABC) unit, and earned much-needed money. She also started vegetable farming and animal rearing.

Learnt the ropes

Last year, she learnt the ropes of snake-catching from Prabhath Saji, Aryankode Suresh, and Zakir Hussain, who died recently. She also applied to the Forest Department for a licence to catch snakes.

Early this year, she secured the licence. “I’d been stepping back from responding to calls to catch snakes without a licence. Now, I can go ahead and do it without any worries.”

On Monday, Sreedevi will be felicitated at the Kerala Gazetted Officers’ Federation’s International Women’s Day celebrations here for her achievements.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 7:01:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-constant-battle-for-her-to-make-two-ends-meet/article34015166.ece

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