The Village of Kuptola
Almost the entire female population of Kuptola and its surrounding villages sooner or later become involved in the making of palm leaf and date palm mats from a very early age. There is almost no other occupation available for the women of this region. The village is situated in Gabtoli Upzilla, 23 kilometers away from Bogra. These people are really very poor, and the most they ever dream of is being able to afford three meals a day. They live for the sake of living. Chances of obtaining a formal education are bleak here for them, and they think it was a curse to have been born female.
The stacks of 15 to 20 feet long bamboos on the front yard of almost every household show how hardworking the women here are. Each of these bamboos costs taka 100-120, and each of them is enough to make 4 to 5 palm mats or talais. A pair of talai, each measuring approximately 3 sq. feet, sells for 100 takas. The bamboos have to be carefully sliced with a machete before any talai can be made. There are two kinds of talai being made, one with the outer surface of the bamboo (known as Nilera) and one with the inner (known as Buiykka). The Nilera talai is sold for 140-160 taka, whereas the Buiykka talai is sold for 70-80 taka. The Buiykka talai is used as room partitions and as mattresses. Both the types of talai are used to make ceilings, and is quite popular with the local residents.
Shottorodh Sobiron is one of such women living in Kuptola village. She has no children, and has extremely poor eyesight; but continues her work with mostly hand felt estimations. Her lifelong experience in the making of talai has made her an expert. She has no yet given in to her old age. She still makes two items per day. She is a brave one, and slices her own bamboo before weaving it into a talai. Once upon a time she used to beg for subsistence, but now she earns her own living. She earns at least enough to buy food for a decent meal a day. Her usual meal is rice with pulse and potatoes. When asked why she doesn't try visiting an eye doctor, she replies, “I hear that hospitals in Bogra charge a lot of money, where am I going to so much money?” When told of state run hospitals, she seemed a bit interested, but didn't say much.
Countless women like Sobiron are weaving everyday. Jahanara, another talai weaver, is much content. She says that she never had the chance to educate herself, but is happy that she found a means of earning a living. Many women share Jahanara's sentiment, after all, almost none of them has any other choice. The profession is passing from generation to generation. Every mother is passing on the same set of skills to her daughter.
Translated by Zahidul Naim Zakaria
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