Back To The Village | Of lifting pots and happy buttocks

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There are certain activities that only women’s bodies are best suited for. With such specialisation, they require extra care and comfort. Presenting... sustainable underwear.

Why am I so happy? Let’s just call it my ‘inner’ joy. | RobinHiggins (

My very dear parents,


What a day!

With every passing week spent here, I realise how privileged I am. And how there are so many everyday activities and experiences that I am encountering for the first time in my three decades on Earth. For instance, carrying pots of water.

I remember peeking out of the bus window on my way to office just as we crossed the slums in Kodambakkam — the colourful plastic pots, people fighting over the queue, babies crying on the sidewalk and bored-looking dogs walking about nonchalantly. I would be amused with the hullabaloo that an activity as simple as fetching water involved. At times, I’d feel sad for all those tired-looking women (and men). But never did I imagine myself carrying pots of water, delicately balanced on my hip.

Until I landed here.

And what a educative journey it has been!

The first time I tried it (on my third day here), I couldn’t even lift the pot. Instead of pulling it up by the rim, I was attempting to lift it by holding the centre (and failing horrendously). Paati marched up to me, lifted the pot as if it were filled with bubbles, and marched back into the kitchen. “Breakfast has to be made, this stupid city girl will delay everything,” she murmured.

Over the next few weeks, I practised carrying pots in the privacy of the water tank. On my fourth day, I managed to lift the pot by the rim and balance it on my hip.

But that was the easy part. Now, you should know that there’s a certain ‘magic’ angle at which the pot has to be kept (kinda wedged into your hip). And obviously, I couldn’t crack that magic angle. So every day, I’d begin with a full pot from the water tank, which would be reduced to half its volume by the time it reached the bathroom.

Then, earlier this week, my little guardian angel came to the rescue. Ponmani was lingering around the bath area weeding out shrubs when she looked up and noticed the pot-carrying disaster that I was. “Maya, you have to carry it like this,” she said as she walked up and set it at the right angle (not 90 degrees).

Oh! What a difference it made. It’s been six days since I was enlightened with the knowledge of the ‘magic’ angle and I have successfully transported 6 pots of water with minimal wastage.

About Ponmani. She’s such a darling! And such an inspiration too.

There’s so much I could say about her. Her tight morning hugs (and evening and night hugs), the way she speaks like an excited little girl, her energy (she’s always doing something — chopping vegetables, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping the prayer dome, stitching covers, making seed pouches, weaving baskets, knitting purses — Oh! she’s tireless) and so much more.

All this is apart from the Puliyanoor Tailoring School.

Of all the fashion inventions of the last century, my favourite has been this thing called Thuvam underwear.

So a few weeks back, Ponmani and I were sitting on the cement slab in the office hut and she said, “Maya, I want help with some content.”

“Sure, Ponz!” I replied.

Then began a most fascinating story of Ponmani — the curious girl, the wandering woman and the lady who invented organic undies.

As a child wondering what to do in life, Ponmani realised there are 3 basic needs that all humans have — food, clothing and shelter. When it came to choosing a career she sifted through these three options. Food — she could learn to cook at home. Shelter — she was discouraged from pursuing civil engineering. So, clothing it was.

A few months of working in the retail industry was enough to have a very disgruntled Ponmani set about in search of avenues for sustainable clothing. After a long journey across the State with her brother, she finally reached Puliyanoor. Something about this place made her want to stay. And she stayed.

Now, life here, idyllic as it might sound, isn’t all dewdrops and butterflies. There are also scorpions, snakes and bitingly cold winters. Quite tough. Especially if you are a woman. (And the only one on campus.)

But Ponmani came. Ponmani stayed. And Ponmani conquered the hearts of the kids in the village.

And finally, Ponmani started the Puliyanoor Tailoring School.

Here in the village, migrant labour is a huge problem. Mothers and fathers leave their kids with their grandparents while they work in the big city as construction labourers. The tailoring school is a way of getting mothers to stay home with their little ones also make money.

But this is just the beginning. The real story is Thuvam.

Thuvam, in Tamil, means a new path. A few months back when Ponmani sat introspecting about sustainable clothing, she realised that the closest most essential garment (underwear) had no sustainable options in the market. All we get are ones made with artificial fabric with tight elastic that leaves you all itchy and welty. Hence, Thuvam — the new path.

Hand-woven cotton fabric (not machine-woven or hosiery stuff) with a coloured patch in the middle and a pocket to insert cloth/tissue in case of a period emergency and best of all it comes with a nada. (Elastic too, in case you dislike the nada style of living). The making and shipping is all plastic-free. It’s super-duper comfortable, looks classy and, most of all, is kind on Mother Earth.

Amma, you know how I hate wearing underwear. Well, after Thuvam, I have realised how messed up our lingerie industry is. And how in all its many decades it has not only failed to give us women one decent, healthy, cosy panty but also contributed to the objectification of women. (More on that later.)

Now my bums live happy. Thanks to the ladies of Puliyanoor Tailoring School. And of course, Ponmani.

When are you visiting me, parents? Come soon! We’ll go for jaunts in the jungle and chill with the children of Puliyanoor.

Waiting for you with anticipation and comfortable buttocks,


p.s. One Thuvam parcel headed your way, Ammi.

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