The scorching summer heat and power cuts generally make people pull out their visiris (palmyrah fans) and wave them to get some relief. Since the COVID-19 lockdown began however, over 100 families in VCR Kandigai in Tirutanni, a village of visiri makers, have been struggling without business.
The village is also known as Visiri Kandigai and its residents have been in the business of making hand fans for many generations. Anyone who visits the hamlet will be welcomed by the sight of green and pink hand fans stacked neatly outside thatched huts.
“In March, we used to take 4,000 visiris and set stalls in Mylapore in Chennai during the car festival. We used to sell one pair for ₹50 and earn enough money to run our families. But this time due to the lockdown, the festival was not conducted and we could not do business,” says M. Vajravel, a village resident who makes these fans.
On an average, each family makes more than 100 fans in a week. The villagers get the palm leaves, dry them for two days and leave them soaked in water for two days before they are dyed.
“They are then cut and stitched in a semi-circular shape and fixed with a handle. For this we pay ₹1 for one fan as wages,” he explains.
The villagers used to take the fans to different parts of Chennai and even far off places like Madurai and sell them. However as there are no buses and shops are closed, they do not have any business. “We have made thousands of fans now, but there are no buyers. People from the film industry used to buy the fans for use in movies and sets but even this has stopped due to the prohibitory orders,” he added.
P. Raghuvaran, Village Administrative Officer, Sirugmi Panchayat, said that the district administration has been providing the residents with groceries and rice at their doorsteps.