In a Corner of TN (India) – Part 1

Mavidupannai, Tamil Nadu: As lifestyles change, so do livelihoods. There are things we used to use that are replaceable, whether it’s because there no longer available, practical, cost efficient or simply forgotten. But what are some of these professions that are disappearing, for better or for worse, as contemporary life changes? And how are those who make a living from these professions coming to terms with these changes? A trip to Mavidupannai was a good time to start digging.

For many years, these thattis were ubiquitous in village life and used by everyone, irrespective of caste or class differences. You could say that these humble-looking mats held village life together. They were used as roofs, walls and doors in several huts, bound together to make makeshift gates, used by butchers to place raw meat in front of their shops after the morning slaughter, as a temporary roof for wedding festivities and even to carry dead bodies to a cremation site. Skillful weavers could make beautiful baskets, boxes and toys using just coconut leaves and fronds. “I could do that,” says Kannadiakka, “but not anymore. I’ve forgotten. Anyway, no one wants baskets like that when you can get plastic ones in the market.”

Story/Words – Joshua Karunakaran (Story first appeared on

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