In the village of Sholayar, in the Thrissur district of Kerala, it is likely that a woman with a pipe in one hand and a bucket full of pipe connections in the other hand is more likely to be Shailaja. Shailja, who has become a unique example for the people. She is the only plumber in this village. She is the first and only plumber. Shailja does the job of giving new door-to-door connections and also provides service for complaints that reach old connections. Before his job was limited to his village, but now people have started calling him even to distant villages after knowing how to talk about his job.
But this is not the beginning of Shailja’s story. A tribal species called Kadar lives among the rugged forests near the famous Adirapilli waterfalls of Kerala. This species, established on the banks of the Chalakudi River, extends from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. 20-25 years ago this was a very backward area. The Kadar species lived in dense forests, completely away from the mainland.
In the name of development, when one after another dams began to be built on the Chalakudi River, vehicles began to pass through the forest. The tribals began to be displaced. The life to which they were accustomed began to change. People living safely in the forest had to find new sources of livelihood. Shailja’s story also begins around this time.
Marriage at the age of 13 and start of a new life
Sholayar village. Thirteen-year-old Shailja was married. The villagers believed that Shailja was lucky, that she was marrying a man who served the government. Shailja’s husband used to work as a supervisor at KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board). Regular life was only possible thanks to luck.
Shailja became pregnant immediately after marriage. In fourteen years, a flower became the mother of a daughter. The husband was an alcoholic. After work, he used to be drunk all the time and used to mistreat him after he got home. Working in her husband’s government and regular salary didn’t help. All the money would be drowned in alcohol.
husband public servant and wife working daily
Shailja started doing daily salaried work to run the house. When there was no work, I used to work from house to house. Shailja was willing to learn and do anything to make money. Relatives did not tire of singing the praises of their hand-cooked food. He encouraged marriages and K. s. EB took on the cooking job in the programs. The taste of food began to speak for itself and he began to have more work. Somehow, Shailja used to collect cakes and husbands watched her money after burning her salary with alcohol. I used to drink even after borrowing upstairs. Shailja used to repay the loan with the money she earned.
difficult decision to break up the marriage
After the first daughter, one after the other, Shailja had three more daughters. It was difficult to run the house. Shailja was breaking up because of the day-to-day fights.
Meanwhile the girls were growing up. Being a government job and a scheduled caste, he got some benefits from the government. Some compensation was also initiated under the Forest Conservation Act, but it was not enough to raise four daughters and run the household. Especially when the husband was still addicted to alcohol.
Selja herself, who studied up to the fourth grade, wanted to give higher education to her daughters. He sent his first-grader daughter to a convent school hostel, 70-80 km away. As the rest of the girls grew older, life with her husband became more difficult. Shailja was worried about how she would raise the girls in this environment. After losing a day, Shailja decided to leave her husband.
Sign up for the Plumbing Course
On the breakup of the marriage, Shailja says, “It was the beginning of a new life for me.” Shailaja felt relieved for the first time in her life. She was willing to do any kind of work. Hardworking, fully committed and dedicated to his work. He was always eager to learn something new and also eager to make the best of what he learned. This was the reason why the taste of the food he prepared was talked about everywhere. People would recommend and Shailja would find work.
The daughters were growing up. One by one he had sent all the daughters to the hostel. The eldest daughter began taking degree courses at the university. Expenditures increased and daily wages fell. Around this time, the village had the opportunity to take a certified plumbing course under the Skill India program of the Government of India. 25 women filled out the form. Everyone got the certificate, but there were only two women who learned to work with full devotion. Shailja and another friend. Shailja liked this job.
Shailja with her four daughters
It was a new ray of hope for Shailja to manage the financial situation of the house. First of all, he worked with the artisans when it came to making plumbing in his house. Really put into practice what has been learned during the course. Put yourself in your behavior. From where things are bought, how the work is done, how the remuneration is decided, all this has been learned. After traveling 60 miles by bus, he would have bought everything he needed and taken them to the bus. People saw this vision with strange eyes, but Shailja was in tune.
Mother’s first plumbing work
When the time for courses and training is over, it’s time to do the real work. Plumbing work had to be done at the mother’s house. Shailja took over that job and did the plumbing all over the house. The work went well. Water started to come out of the tap. Shailja’s confidence increased. There were no other plumbers in the village of Sholayar. Shailja started working. Before, some people hesitated to give a job because she was a woman. But after seeing the play, I would also recommend it.
plumbing work begins
According to forest conservation rules, they were allowed to live in the forest and live in the forest. But it was not enough to live a full life. As much as Shailaja was tied to nature, she was by no means backward. At first being tribal full of inferiority complex to the outside world. Children are often despised in the outside world. To prove himself, he had to work twice, three times. Shailja constantly encourages them. She wanted her children to be more capable than she was.
His plumbing work was gaining momentum. 5000 a month. He started winning. Their own needs were limited. The forest gives you a lot anyway. He continued to teach by sending girls to hostels. When she finished her first daughter’s degree, seeing a good boy, she married her. The second daughter is studying pharmacy after taking a one-year Ayurveda course. The other two daughters are smart too and Shailja hopes she can get up tomorrow too.
working daughter raised in the jungles
After passing an age, work that can be a challenge for anyone to learn and do, as Shailja adopted this work so easily. To understand this, one must understand where Shailja comes from.
His village Sholayar in the middle of the forest, where herds of elephants met with the tweet. Leopards, deer, wild cats, langurs and squirrels. Find out how many small wild animals pass through the village. Various types of venomous snakes roam the outdoors. Every day the leopards would pick up the goats and take them away. When the elephant was happy, he was also occasionally heard talking about crushed humans. Dense forests, deciduous and evergreen trees, swaying waterfalls, rugged roads, narrow trails, random stretching river, recumbent valley. Bamboo forest, sound of prawns and sparkling of light worms.
This was the home of the Kadar species. Shailja was the daughter of this forest. Here was his mind. The music of his soul too. The secret of his diligence. He knew how to make his way through the woods. I had to go up and down the mountains. Wild animals had to be avoided. I used to live with nature. Hard work was nothing new to Shailja.
Shailja has become a maternal grandmother at 37 years old
the desires are still there
It wasn’t that everyone in the village was on Shailja’s side. Shailja laughs and says, “There are people everywhere who don’t see the happiness and progress of others.” They questioned that she was a woman to do such a thing, they doubted her ability, they looked at her with suspicion. But there were still a good number of people who believed in him, gave him work, recommended him and turned their backs on him.
Shailja is happy. His voice smiles when he speaks to me. I curiously ask, “How old are you, Shailaja?”
“37. I know I have become a babysitter. My daughter gave birth to a lovely son a few days ago.
“Oh Wow! A Sholayar?” I laugh too.
Shailaja says, “There is no good hospital around Sholair. Right now I live in a rented house near the Chalakudy city hospital, 60 km from the forest.” This he thought was right for his daughter. She doesn’t want to put him in any trouble. She says if there is a house in town, it will also be convenient for girls in the future.
Thinking about it, she adds: “It is not easy to be a mother of four daughters and a plumber together. A woman can do all kinds of work, but being a woman is full of so many responsibilities that even though we want thousands, we can’t do everything we want.
Sholayar does not have good government schools. There are no hospitals. There are no opportunities. Shailja says having a chance at life is very important. He kept this in mind that children should not have opportunities.
I am really impressed by Shailja’s thought and clarity. I ask her if Shailja also wants more opportunities in life. Without hesitation, Shailaja replies, “I want to learn more about plumbing. If possible, I would like to do some other course. I want to increase my work. I want to have an assistant with me. If possible, make a small team.
I imagine Shailja in uniform. He is with his assistant. Maybe driving at his own pace. In his company I also begin to dream. By the way, this dream is also possible for Shailja, who brought pipes and plumbing connections from Chalakudi to the bus.
I ask her eldest daughter, “What do you think of your mother?” Holding her baby in her arms, she says, “Proud of the mother. I want the mother’s work to progress a lot.
There is no chance of learning more plumbing jobs. I ask him, “Are you going out somewhere and learning work?”
Shailaja smiles and says, “When I was with my husband, I couldn’t even imagine that I would do so many things one day. When she fell alone, it all started to happen one after the other. If the husband was with him, I would never have allowed this work to be done. If the daughters are together, anything is possible. “
“What would you like to say to all the girls in the country, Shailja?” I ask
“That, being a girl, never stop doing any work. Do it your own way. If you move forward, the difficulty itself will be easier.
I ask Shailja to teach her grandson and she makes the whole video and sends it to me. Baby in the crib and Shailja sings a lullaby. In his voice are the forest, the shade of the trees, the whirlpool of the fountains, the freshness of the air, and the sweetness of the birds. A mother has affection and trust. Being a woman. Green and beautiful.