Firewood seller living a life 'chopped to pieces'
By Gokul Prasannan | Published: 31st October 2013 11:21 AM |
A woodcutter is a common character in several fairy tales that we come across as children. Sometimes, he may have a magical axe or, at the end of the story, become a rich merchant. However, fate has not been so kind to an 83-year-old man in the city, who has spent more than five decades of his life selling wood. Still, Benjamin Johnson is not ready to quit his job as he admits that it is the only vocation he knows.
Unnoticed by many, Benjamin has lived his life near the Edapazhanji market for the past 50 years.
Benjamin started collecting logs from Vithura and surrounding forest regions and selling them as firewood at a very young age. Gradually, he moved to a shop inside the Pangode market and continued his business there for 30 years. “I shifted from there to this new place after being evicted from the market. The City Corporation and other authorities have tried to dismantle this house and shop also, but I obtained a favourable verdict from the Kerala High Court. But, here, we don’t have electricity, water connection or even a toilet. I and my wife use the toilets in the market,” says Benjamin.
“I get this firewood from the local woodcutters in the city and also from merchants in Nedumangad. One tonne of tamarind wood costs Rs 3,000. The demand for these logs is very high now since most of the hospitals, hostels, canteens and even some small restaurants depend on wood for fuel in this age of soaring LPG rates. But I don’t get any profit since I have employed a helper to cut the logs, for which I pay him Rs 800.
Also, the expense for transportation is very high. I owe money to many people to run the business of a day,” says Benjamin.
Benjamin was diagnosed with oral cancer in 1993 and is under treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre.
“Once every three months he has to go for checkups. He won’t move in with any of his children but manages to live in a shed near the workplace with our mother, who is also suffering from acute cardiac problems,” says Benjamin’s son Rajan, who works in a welding shop.
Other than Rajan, Benjamin and his wife Thulasi have three daughters, who have been married off and live with their families. But still, in the dusk of their lives, this old couple hesitate to bother any of their children and are working hard to make both ends meet, with bad health and ailments as their best companions.