How many of us use our brooms as decorative pieces? None, right? But there is one house in Kerala where you can see two broomsticks placed side by side adorning the wall right beside the doorway at the entrance like a piece of art. And this house belongs to none other than Lakshmi Menon.
These broomsticks are not ordinary! In fact, they have an interesting story behind them that will not only touch your heart but will also inspire you to do something to give back to society. These broomsticks look stunning in their designs, but what makes them unique is their imperfection. Attractive and colourful, one may point out that the pattern is not perfect in a few places.
To which Lakshmi Menon gives a befitting reply, “If you can see the imperfections, you are one of the luckiest people because the person who made the broom could never see it themself.”
The craftsmen who weave these beautiful broomsticks belong to a group of visually impaired women at the Kerala Federation of the Blind. These visually impaired women receive training from Lakshmi in a bid to become financially independent and lead a better quality of life. Attaining a sense of independence gives them hope for tomorrow.
A Fascination Start to a Noble Journey
Lakshmi, who hails from Kerala, was struck with this amazing idea while vacationing at an Ayurvedic beach resort in Thrissur at a beautiful property. Spending her days admiring the picturesque beauty of nature and the line of coconut and palm trees that outlined the landscape of the resort, she noticed that the hotel staff would cut the leaves once they became aged and dry.
In Kerala, it is a common practice to make brooms from these dried coconut leaves. Lakshmi too used to do this with her grandmother and mother when she was younger. Once she joined them, she realised that she could easily make around five broomsticks a day.
She soon discovered that these broomsticks can be sold for INR 250 and thought it would be a very sustainable venture to have. To make it more sustainable, Lakshmi decided to use scrap pieces of cloth from a neighbouring tailor instead of plastic that was usually used to tape the broomsticks together.
She started putting pictures on her social media account. As soon as her followers saw the images of the broomsticks she had put up, she was flooded with orders for these.
So how did this amazing idea that she got on vacation turn into a noble cause?
What you Seek, Seeks You!
Following her vacation, one of her friends told her about the Kerala Federation of Blind and how women at the federation were not getting much work those days. And when her friend asked Lakshmi, if she knew any activity that can help these women to gain financial independence? Lakshmi was quick to reply!
She indeed knew of the activity that could transform the lives of those women forever. In fact by this time Lakshmi had taken the innovation further. She further shares, “I thought a tapestry would make an attractive covering for the broom. There was no point weaving through the entire thing. By simply covering the outer layer of the broom with colourful woven yarn, the appearance would be fabulous.”
The next day she shared her idea with the women in the federation and she received a great response and was quite surprised to see their impeccable skills in doing the work.
In 2022, she established her venture- Choolala—which means “broom” in Malayalam. Her venture would solely focus on these broomsticks made by visually impaired women. The broomsticks created by Choolala have a luxury associated with them because they are non-polished and also because of the fact that each broomstick is made by someone who, despite not being able to see, has crafted it with love and passion.
Currently, there are 15 visually impaired women from Idukki, Calicut, Trivandrum, Kottayam, and other places around Kerala, who are engaged in Choolala. And watching them piecing them together is wholesome.
Speaking about the process of making the broomsticks, she says it is heart rendering to watch these visually impaired women make these. “They hum, sing, listen to music and enjoy the process so much, it almost feels there is magic happening right where the brooms are made.”
These women live at the Federation of the Blind and have all their needs taken care of, Lakshmi provides them with training to make the brooms and they are given INR 150 for the sale of the broomsticks. Lakshmi is also in talks with the airport authorities in Kerala to have the broomsticks made available in all souvenir shops, as she says, “This is the best memory you can take back from the state.”
Nothing handmade can ever be perfect and this is why the broomsticks from Choolala also have a kind of special touch. Circling back to why her venture is focused on visually impaired people this time, Lakshmi says it has made her more aware of the beauty of life.
She adds that we as a society and the world sometimes fail to understand how tough life must be to wake up and not be able to see. This is why we should be grateful for everything that we have in life and keep working toward the betterment of society.
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