PATTUKKOTTAI: A 12-year-old girl died on November 15 in Anaikkadu when a coconut tree fell on the thatched barn where she had been made to stay since attaining puberty three days before Cyclone Gaja struck the region. Uprooted by strong winds, the coconut tree fell on the chest of S Vijaya (inset), killing her instantly. Her mother, Bhanumathi, sustained fractures on her hand and leg.
Her mother and grandmother would sleep along with her at night while men were barred from meeting the pubescent Class VII girl considered by the family to be “impure”. One of her two brothers, Vinoth Kumar, died after being bitten by a snake a year ago. Vijaya’s father Selvaraj and Bhanumathi are employed as farmhands in the grove where the barn stood. She was buried in the grove on Sunday after a postmortem at the Pattukkottai government hospital.
R Panjaiyan, Vijaya’s uncle, said, “We are living in a hut about 50 metres away in another coconut grove. We struggled hard to lift the tree using towels. We took the girl to a nearby house with a tiled roof but that was already damaged in the strong winds.”
Soon after the rescue, another tree fell on the thatched hut, sources said.
The hut was a barn till Vijaya was made to shift there after attaining puberty, and her parents tied the cows and goats outside the barn. “As per the custom, a girl has to spend 16 days in isolation on attaining puberty. Only after that is she allowed to sleep in her house,” said another relative of the girl. Showing her notebooks and schoolbag, Vijaya’s relatives said the girl was a bright student.