VENITA GOMES | NT BUZZ
Coconut is an essential ingredient of the Goan cuisine. The famed Goan fish curry and popular sweets dishes like doce, manngane, batkh, dodol etc would be incomplete without coconut. Not just in the food but several religious occasions call for its use. The list is never-ending. If you look around you can find several coconut plantations, but off late it is very difficult to find coconut pluckers.
Padekar – a rare sight?
Nowadays it’s quite common to hear people complain or rather grumble about not finding coconut pluckers easily. They either call traditional pluckers from far away villages or check online for contact details available on websites like ‘padekar.com’. And when they find one their charges may not seem a pinch to those who won one or two palms, but is definitely a pinch in the pockets of those who own huge plantations.
Savita Naik from Mapusa always has a hard time looking for coconut pluckers: “Earlier, we had no problem finding pluckers because we had a regular ‘padekar’ but sadly he is no more and his son after shifting to the city discontinued plucking. We have to bring some pluckers from Siolim, Morjim and other far away villages.”
Upholding the tradition
In Goa, coconut harvesting was basically passed on from the father to the son. Traditional pluckers would either tie a piece of cloth around their ankles or use a soft ring made from the plant ‘khumbo’ to climb up the palm. “We would pay the pluckers half in cash, half in coconuts. Nowadays, they charge a reasonable wage per tree (depending on the number of trees). Earlier it was Rs50 per tree but now it is Rs100 to Rs250. Most pluckers were old and you can rarely find youngsters in the trade,” says housewife, Alisha Cardozo from Moira who advices youngsters to not shy away from carrying forward the traditional practice of coconut harvesting.
Though it is believed that work is equal and no occupation is superior, society tends to often look down upon coconut pluckers as a lower job profile, though the income could be a substantial amount. Therefore not many youngsters are keen in taking it up the job.
Canacona-based Premanand Velip who has been a coconut plucker for over 10 years says that today a lot of youngsters are choosing other careers and job profiles rather than traditional occupations. “Firstly, you cannot earn so much of money through coconut plucking. Secondly, unlike earlier times today youngster and children are not interested in going ahead with ancient practices, possibly because they are shy. And there are too many career options open to them. Our times were different, we would do what our forefathers did,” he adds.
Though people complain about the rise in price, it is the life of the plucker which is often at stake. “For us it is easy to climb up the palm. Though it is a risky thing, we still manage it. There have been incidents where people have fallen and injured themselves badly. Also, during the monsoons it is risky and many don’t wish to climb up because it is very slippery,” says 65-year-old, Ratnakar Velip from Bali, Canacona. He adds that the pluckers also need to take care of their own health and look after their family at the same time. Keeping the same price which used to be charged earlier is not feasible as the rate of all commodities have increased.
Need to protect the crop
“The tender coconuts found in Goa are better than those coming from Karnataka. But people of Goa don’t take good care of the crop. They need to put manure to the palm’s roots on regular periods,” says a local vendor, Gulam Nagi.
In his Bali-Canacona village, Velip is well-known for a medicine he uses for the palms to yield better coconuts. He has specialised in understanding the nature of the coconut and what needs to be done to protect the palm from varied weather conditions. “People are not aware about what care needs to be taken to help the palm yield better. Many plantations are target of bad weather conditions and if care is not taken the fruits tend to spoil,” concludes Velip.