Time to 'groom' grass brooms

miscellany

Time to 'groom'  grass brooms

Grass to make bamboo is spread out for drying in Panasamakanahalli village in Srinivaspur taluk. A broom is the most useful item of daily use in a household. While it is generally women, who use it to clean homes, they are even made by them.

The traditional Indian broom is made of a kind of grass that grows aplenty all over India as a weed. The grass has a long, thin but durable stem that hardens as it dries, dotted with bunches of small but sharp needles that grows thick at the crown of the stem.

The purpose of broomstick has not faded away despite the change in lifestyle in rural homes, or for that matter, the urban. The polythene duster or the long-handled ones, or the rougher versions made out of reeds in coconut fronds do not clean as well as the bushy grass brooms do.

Making the humble broom is the source of livelihood for many women in the taluk and also in Kolar and Chikkaballapur districts. Come January, women collect the raw material from the forest fringes in the taluk which are later cut and conditioned to make a fine broom. Tied in bunches, the broomsticks can fetch them anywhere between Rs 8 and Rs 10 per stick at markets. This provides a meagre income to them.

The women also collect the grass that grows wild on the edges of farms and any open land, beat them on the ground to get rid of the seeds and chaff, and dry the stems in the sun.

They then bind the grass with twine as a bunch and the result is what has kept the Indian homes clean for centuries. The only technology used is a plastic pipe that serves as a handle.

Broomstick vendors make a beeline for the village during this time to buy brooms from these women. They are later neatly packed and sold at higher prices in town.

The women, who invest so much of labour in collecting grass, get a pittance. It is no child’s play to collect grass and clean it. The sharp needles can cause injuries.

With their bushy feathers, it is tough to process the grass stems. The grass is inflammable and it is necessary to be careful with their storage.

But with homes to look after and employment opportunities dwindling, the women continue to harvest the nature’s bounty that keeps the Indian homes clean. 

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