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Tamil Nadu: The women sea divers of Rameswaram by Akila Kannadasan August 13,2019   |  Source: The Hindu

“I’m going to the deep end,” says R Devi, and disappears with a glug into the shallow waters of the Bay of Bengal. Suddenly, I am left standing alone, facing the unending blue. In the minutes I spend in the knee-deep water of the sea off Akkalmadam hamlet in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, all what Devi told me minutes ago comes rushing back: “It is risky business, but we do it because we know nothing else.” She is talking about collecting seaweed. Used for making agar-agar, the marikolundhu variety is sought after, and the women of Rameswaram go to great lengths to collect a sackful, which will probably end up in a bowl of payasam hundreds of kilometres away.

R Devi, M Nambeeswari, and M Muthukarupaayi from Chinnapalam village, reach Akkalmadam by 7.30 am that humid day, armed with sacks and goggles. They pull T-shirts over their saris, slip on the goggles, tuck their hair into buns, and secure a sack each around their hips like capes. Then comes their most important accessory: gloves made of old bits of cloth. “We can’t go in without these,” Nambeeswari explains, folding a small length of cloth over a finger and securing it with rubber bands. She has one for each finger. “This will protect us from sharp rocks underwater. Rubber gloves won’t work because they

 

© 2019, THG PUBLISHING PVT LTD.

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