KOCHI: Many of us have bucket lists replete with foreign vacations and adventurous activities but all Kattakada resident Sreedevi T had on her list was a government job before she turned 36.
Sreedevi turned 37 this year. Although she couldn’t fulfill her dream, Sreedevi has been successfully trained in 74 skills, ranging from driving tractors to climbing coconut trees, despite facing difficulties and being financially disadvantaged.
“My father abandoned the family after my mother became mentally unstable. Although I had completed high school, I discontinued my studies due to financial crisis and stayed home to take care of my mother and sister,” she says.
Sreedevi got married when she turned 18 but, to her utter dismay, discovered that her husband was a drunkard.
Realising that she had mouths to feed (her mother and two children), she began making and selling mats made of palm leaves. As the earning wasn’t enough, she took up other jobs including working in a cashew factory, a textile shop, engaging in fish and poultry farming, driving tractors, and autorickshaws, to earn a living.
Around the time, Sreedevi learnt about ‘Thenginte Changathikoottam (Friends of Coconut Trees), a group under the Coconut Development Board, which trained women in climbing coconut trees. Back then, she was the only woman in her area who dared to learn the same and make a living out of it. “People from Vellayambalam and Peroorkada would approach me to climb their coconut trees,” she says.
A new life
It has been four years since Sreedevi’s tryst with Kudumbashree began.
“At 3 am, I set out to catch stray dogs along with the men in my team,” she says. Her team has caught 5,000 stray dogs under the Animal Birth Control programme carried out in the district. During the lockdown period, under the Subhiksha Keralam programme, Kattakada Krishi Bhavan bestowed the ‘Best Farmer’ award on Sreedevi for her unique farming activities in a six-cent land.
From fish farming to rearing 100 quails and 50 different varieties of country chicken, Sreedevi has also learnt to rear rabbits and pigs.
She has been trained to catch snakes by Aryanad Suresh and Prathap Sachy, who work at Snake Park, Poojapura, along with Sakir Hussain, another snake catcher who died recently. She has caught 30 venomous snakes and registered her name at the Kottoor Forest office range. She now awaits a license after which she hopes to train more women to catch snakes.