He learned making umbrellas way back in 1955 to raise funds for buying a band set for the Communist Party in Kozhikode. However, even in his wildest of his dreams, Ayinoor Vasu had not imagined that he would have to resort to umbrella making to earn a living.
‘Marivil Umbrellas’ has become a familiar name to the local people of Pottammal in Kozhikode, the native place of Ayinoor Vasu, better known as Grow Vasu - the Naxal leader-turned-human rights activist.
Vasu was one of the forefront warriors in the Thirunelli Naxalite action in 1970, in which Naxalite leader Varghese was killed.Following this, he was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment at the Kannur Central Jail. After coming out of the jail, many refused to offer him a job for the reason that he was a Naxalite. Then he chose to make umbrellas for his well-wishers and old friends. And hence evolved ‘Marivil Umbrellas’ at the two-room rented house with walls bearing photographs of legendary Communist leaders like Mao Tse Tung, Karl Marx, Lenin and Engels. For the past 35 years, 82-year-old Vasu has been earning his livelihood by making umbrellas. “I never thought that the prior experience in umbrella making in 1955 would help to earn a living after my prison life in 1977,” said Grow Vasu.
With monsoon fast approaching, Vasu is busy making special editions of umbrellas for school children. He sells the umbrellas exclusively at a small stationery shop with the help of a couple of part-time workers in the same building in Pottammal. The umbrellas made of thick German-made cloth and ultra-small umbrellas ranging in price from `120 to `250, are the other attractions of the Marivil Brand, which was earlier known as Hero Umbrellas.
Ayinoor Vasu became Grow Vasu after he became the leader of Gwalior Rayons Workers’ Organisation (GROW). Vasu is now one of the prominent faces among the mainstream human rights activists in the state.
It is not a profit-making enterprise for him, but an occupation which would help him meet his expenses for a year. “The three months of job would easily help me earn enough money to sustain myself and my social activities for a year,” said Grow Vasu. “Last year, we made around 3,500 umbrellas and this year, the number will go up,” he added “The umbrella making gives a return of 15 percent to 20 percent per umbrella. But I have no plans to expand this to a wholesale business as I am not that much sound financially,” he said.