TIRUNELVELI: The name Kallidaikurichi is synonymous with appalams, just as Tirunelveli automatically means halwa, and Pathamadai brings to mind paais (mats).
There were many manufacturing units in Kallidaikurichi and its appalams were exported to nearby countries. But, of late, the number of manufacturing units has dwindled.
Perumal Sannadhi Street was the hub of appalam manufacturing units in Kallidaikurichi. Subbiah (72), the senior most staffer at Sankar Appalam, said that appalam manufacturing was a household industry in Kallidaikurichi. He attributed the popularity of the appalams to the quality of the water from the Thamirabarani River.
“The Thamirabarani water lends a distinctive taste to the appalams, just as it does to the Tirunelveli Halwa. Since Kallidaikurichi is situated on the banks of the Thamirabarani, it was a great blessing for the appalam manufacturers,” said Subbiah.
All the same, the number of units and the number of workers in the units have dropped considerably, according to Subbiah.
There was a time when around 100 people used to work in the manufacturing units but now only a few elders are working there, Subbiah said. Owing to the shortage of workers, some have shifted their office to Chennai. “They buy the appalams from here, add their brand name and sell at a higher price. The only hope for the manufacturers is marriages,” Subbiah stated. No marriage is complete without the appalam. “The appalam has evolved with the demands of the times. Sometimes, the names of the bride and the groom are printed on the appalams. We are catering to marriage orders,” sighed Subbiah.
A dealer, Shankar, from Kallidaikurichi, claims that earlier traders from other states used to buy from them for export to Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.
“But now only the local traders are procuring it and sending it to the nearby states,” he rued. Shankar said that he used to buy appalams worth `15,000 a week and send them to other states.