Remember the whizzing sound of the ‘visiri’ (traditional palmyrah fans) when your mother or grandmother used to wave them to put you to sleep during power cuts. With the advent of technology, visiris have been replaced by battery-operated fans that ensure people enjoy a good night’s sleep even during power cuts.
The advancement in technology has pushed many communities making these traditional visiris into hardship. Among them is a 200-family-strong community in V.C.R. Kandigai near Tiruttani in Tiruvallur district. Anyone who visits the hamlet will be welcomed by the sight of green and rose coloured fans stacked neatly outside thatched huts.
Men and women of all ages can be seen engrossed in making the ‘visiris’. “We have been into this trade for ages. Our ancestors used to travel across the country selling the fans. Hence, our village is fondly called as ‘Visiri Kandigai’,” says 35-year old B. Mohan, of the village.
He has been making fans ever since he was 10-years old. “As a child, my father taught me how to make fans. We get the leaves, dry it for two days and then again leave it soaked in water for two days and then it is dyed. They are then cut and stitched in a semi-circular shape and fixed with a handle,” he explains.
Till a decade ago, business was thriving. “Each family makes 100 fans a week and a set is sold for Rs. 25. We get a profit of Rs. 9. We used to travel and sell it in Chennai, Bengaluru, Madurai and Tuticorin. Now there are not many buyers,” explains Balaraman, another fan maker.
He says that people now use these fans as wall hanging. “Some people from film industry purchase the fans to use them in movies,” adds Balaraman.
The dip in business is now forcing many of the villagers to turn to other occupations. “Some of them are working as construction labourers and security guards. But the old people continue to make the fans,” says Mohan. “We cannot disown our traditional trade,” he adds before walking away to collect a fresh stock of palm leaves.