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Firm against all Setbacks:  Sheeja, the toddy tapper

Toddy tapping is a job meant for men who dominate the field for reasons like good health conditions and courage. But this lady with her strong determination proves it a myth. C. Sheeja hailing from Panniyode in the Kannur district of Kerala, India is the only woman toddy tapper in this State. Like any other male toddy tapper, she climbs eight trees a day and is currently a licensed toddy tapper at Kannamam toddy shop.

Being the wife of a toddy tapper, Sheeja entered into this field under crucial financial circumstances in the family after her husband had met with a road accident and his inability to climb trees for a certain period. As a normal housewife with two school-going children and a poor financial background, she couldn’t lean before her fate. When life began to test her, she stood strong with her knife and chose the road taken by her husband and brother. Her husband is her teacher in this field.

She has to face a lot of odds. It wasn’t easy for a woman to perform such a job. The most challenging task among them was the fear caused by her brother’s death falling from a coconut tree. She has to overcome many health issues like vomiting, dizziness etc along with the so-called limitations set on women by society. She was a fighter in all senses. At first, when the wind came she has to tie her hands tight to the tree because of fear. What other people say was one of her major concerns. She used to be teased and would hide to avoid the insult. Gradually these odds polished her into what she is. After getting the media’s attention, things have changed.

Sheeja climbs eight trees a day now, but it is hard enough to make both ends meet. She gets an amount of Rs. 350 per day from these eight trees which leaves very little for Sheeja and her family to live by. We cannot simply place her as the first woman toddy tapper. She is revolutionary in all senses. When her husband Jayakumar returned to work, she could have stopped it. But she did not. She proves herself as a toddy tapper, not before her natives, but to the whole world. She lit a light before all who disregard the whole toddy tapper community.

She is honoured by Kairali tv’s Jwala Kairali Award in 2022, a special award selected by chairman Padmasree Bharat Mammootty from different news entries. The transition from an ordinary housewife to Kerala’s first woman toddy tapper is a difficult task. Through her dedication, hard work and confidence she proves that there is no such thing as male-centric jobs. She is an inspiration for all those ladies who don’t want to be let down in life.