THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For Baby, a native of Kappikkade, Marthandam, selling pots for Attukal Pongala is not just a means of livelihood. She has immense pleasure in being a part of the festival and returns home only after offering Pongala.
Baby, 56, has been here for the Pongala ‘Uthsavam’ for the past 15 years. Baby, who reached the city a few days back, sells pots for the Pongala at Attakkulangara. Being away from home for ten days, she makes the selling space a shelter too. Back home at Kappikkade, her family is engaged in making pots, a means of livelihood for around 50 families in the village.
Chandrika, 52, another native of Kappikkade, has almost the same story to tell. She also has been arriving here for the festival during the past seven years and returns after offering Pongala. At Kappikkade, her family engages in selling pots which they buy from Tirunelveli.
Baby and Chandrika are two among the women who have been coming all the way from Marthandam and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu to sell pots for Attukal Pongala for the past several years. There are around 20 women from Tamil Nadu and among them, around 15 are from Kappikkade.
Like Baby, the other women also use the roadside as a shelter. “Every year, we sleep on the very spot where we sell the pots,” says Baby. When asked whether they are safe at night, she says that, “till now, nothing has occurred which poses a threat to our safety.’’
The women use public toilets and bathrooms near the Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple. The women from Tamil Nadu view the Pongala as a spiritual event rather than a business opportunity.
Back home, most of them are daily wage labourers for which they get a reasonable amount. During the Pongala festival, they sell, on an average, 6,000 to 7,000 pots per day. Sometimes, the profit from selling the pots is lesser than what they could earn from ‘coolie’ work. But when Pongala days approach, they cannot help themselves from coming.
“We are ardent believers of the Devi and offer Pongala every year. Satisfaction matters more than the money we earn,” say the women. Yes, for them, it is pilgrimage.