The loss of business due to lockdown in view of COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to have deterred the women of a small island of Corjuem who earn their livelihood by selling garlands and strings made of mogra (jasmine) buds.
Despite no demand as well as sale due to lockdown, these women dedicatedly wake up at 6 am and walk down the street to their mogra plantation to harvest the fully developed unopened mogra buds, followed by making of garlands and strings.
Speaking to GT, Sarita Somnath Polle who has cultivated mogra in an area of about 800 square metres said, "During the three months of March to May, there are jatras of various goddesses and there is lot of demand for these flowers, especially the famous Shirgao jatra of Goddess Lairai. But due to COVID-19 pandemic, jatras have been cancelled and temples are also closed for public."
It is believed that Goddess Lairai loves mogra buds and devotees offer strings of these flowers to the Goddess during the five-day jatra.
"As there is no jatra, there are no buyers for these mogra buds which has resulted into monetary losses for us as we are dependent on this business entirely," Sarita said who has engaged six other women who make garlands and strings from the harvested buds.
As there are no buyers, the buds which are otherwise harvested early morning, used to bloom and perish as they were not being harvested. Looking at the flowers getting wasted, these women decided to harvest them and continue making strings and garlands. It takes two-three hours to harvest the fully grown buds and another two hours to make the strings and garlands.
"These women said let's not waste these buds and harvest them. They even offered to do the harvesting and strings free of cost," she said. The women are usually paid Rs 25 per hour to harvest the buds and Rs 3 per string.
Every day, they harvest about 10,000 to 12,000 mogra buds which are sold at Rs 25-30 per string. Sometimes, people also buy only the buds and covert them into strings that are sold even at Rs 50 per string during the five-day jatra.
As they have lost the entire season due to lockdown, they have suffered loss to the tune of nearly Rs 80,000-90,000.
"We used to earn nearly Rs 2,000 per day during the season and Rs 8,000-9,000 during the jatra. But this year, our entire season is gone in lockdown and it is entirely a loss. We give some garlands in nearby temples and sometimes people also buy from us. But the sale has fallen completely," she lamented.