The coconut climbers are a dwindling community in Kerala. There is a high demand for this traditional job doers. At a time when the present generation hesitate to climb the tree and run after glamorous jobs, one man from Thusharagiri becomes a non-identical figure today.
Biju is a full time coconut tree climber (coconut plucker) since the last 18 years from Thusharagiri, Kozhikode. This professional climber makes half lakh rupees a month from this not-so-attractive job, more than a sum a software engineer who work in air conditioned room earns.
His earning in August was Rs 52,146.
Biju was born in Amboori, Thiruvananthapuram. He is the second eldest among the siblings. His parents migrated to Malabar when he was in fourth standard. Later, when their father died, the responsibility of the family fell on his shoulders. His elder brother was away for his studies.
Out of utter poverty, this fire born young man, having no means to survive, stepped into hard labour. Meantime, he had passed his pre degree, equivalent to today’s plus two. Like his elder brother who had completed a degree and joined army, Biju also had received a call from army. However, he couldn’t join it.
Today when he looks back, he doesn’t regret about it. Biju is leading a happy life with his family. His wife Jessy is a dairy farmer and their two children, elder one studying nursing and younger one is doing plus two. Biju is proud to say that both his children had secured full A+ in all subjects in 10th standard. He gifted his elder one gold and the younger one with a brand new two wheeler.
Before venturing into coconut tree climbing, Biju was a dairy farmer and a rubber tapping laborer. When he began his job, the rate for climbing a tree was only Rs 3 per tree. But after two decades this amount was hiked to Rs 30. That is only for plucking the fruits. If he climbs a tree for cleaning the top of the tree, the rate would be Rs 100 per tree.
Apart from the conventional method of climbing, Biju has been using the coconut mechanized climber. He says, “This is safe and secure. While we climb, we are exposed to danger. Anytime we slip our hands or legs to fall from this single trunk tree.”
Because of over perspiration, anytime blood pressure can go down while climbing, finally losing control of the body. So he always prefers gruel soup with salt. This gives energy.
Recently he built a house in his land that he purchased near to an upcoming state highway in the locality. If anyone asks, he says he is proud to say that his profession is coconut climbing. Because this unglamorous profession has brought him happiness to his life and family.
Biju takes up over 100 trees a day easily. His daily earning is steadily growing every month. Last month (August 2018) earning was Rs 52,146. As he is getting aged, he is limiting his work to a safe number of trees.
To mark his earnings every day, he keeps a book of accounts. He records all his daily work and payment in that.
There are dangers also hidden in the job. Every climber uses a long machete that’s so sharp, for the easy use at the top of the tree. Sometimes they cut themselves over the tree or get attacked by wasps.
“We can’t expect any financial help from the clients. They think it is part of the job and let them deal with it. Contrary to that, there are some who would generously help us. Dissuaded by danger and less respect in the society many stay away from this profession.”
During work, he keeps his phone away to avoid any kind of distraction. This keeps his gadget safe from damage. He does all phone calls with clients after reaching home after 5 pm.
Biju’s next one and half weeks are already booked. If you want to get your work done, you may probably book his date over a fortnight before.
His fellow climbers ask how he gets so much work every day and month. For them, Biju has only one answer. “I have taken this job seriously in my life since last 18 years. I do this with sincerity and commitment.”
“Moreover, it’s all about how we deal with my clients. I have proper communication with them and get the work done on agreed time.”
“There are lots of young people venturing into this job now from this locality. They also earn good money. But once they get a pretty good amount, they won’t go for work for the next few days. This affects their work.”
“Anyone can make good sum of money, if they are committed and sincere to their work. Look at how the other state laborers earn from Kerala, their gulf.”
“When I first started doing this job, everyone scoffed off, but now they accept me after seeing my success in life.”