Kerala Floods: Stories of resilience

Kerala Floods: Stories of resilience

Aranmula Kannadi

A year after the devastating floods, Kerala has powerful stories of determination and revival to tell.

Chendamangalam handloom of Ernakulam district and the Aranmula Kannadi (metal mirror) industry of Pathanamthitta district, two ventures with Geographic Indication tags, are striking examples.

Chekutty, a handmade doll that was made from the damaged handloom materials, is the highlight of Chendamangalam handloom’s comeback. Chendamangalam is a small town about 30 km from Kochi city and is known for the traditional handloom industry. Over 300 women in the locality are engaged in handloom making. Some units are set up in houses as well.

Almost all major units of the area were flooded and finished goods worth Rs 35 lakh were damaged. The industry’s future was in the doldrums. Among hundreds who visited the flood-ravaged areas were fashion designer Lakshmi Menon and social activist Gopinath Parayil.

They came out with the idea of making tiny dolls from the flood-ravaged handloom materials. This initiative got attention worldwide. Many volunteers joined the initiative and major banks offered sponsorship. The name Chekutty is derived from Chendamangalam + ‘Kutty’ (Malayalam word for a kid) as well as ‘Cherille’ (Malayalam word for mud) + ‘Kutty’.

“The dolls sold like hotcakes. We could raise Rs 32 lakh from the ruined stock,” said C V Ajith Kumar, secretary, Chendamangalam Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society. With financial support from various voluntary organisations, the handloom units that were damaged in the floods were also revived, he said.

Comeback

The internationally famed Aranmula Kannadi industry, which was also affected by the floods, could bounce back within months owing to the support extended by well-wishers as well as the determination of the workers. Nearly 30 metal mirror units at Aranmula, a small town situated about 20 km from Pathanamthitta, were ravaged by floods. The Aranmula metal mirror, made from a unique metal alloy, traces its origin to 18th century.

With little support from the government authorities, those involved in the mirror making themselves took initiatives to revive the industry by raising personal loans. Assistance poured in from well-wishers in various parts of the world who placed advance bulk orders. Within months, the Aranmula mirror making was back in business.

K P Ashokan, president of the Viswabrahmana Aranmula Metal Mirror Nirman Society, said that though the industry was back to business, it would take time to overcome the losses caused by the flood. “The industry has received only assurances from government authorities, but no support,” he said.