The Thakil players of Palakkad are a special group of artists. Thakil/Thavil is a dholak-like (in north India) instrument played in local marriage functions and festival celebrations in temples of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We recently met three Thakil Players-Murali, Sivan and Mohanan in Palakkad. They make approximately ₹1300 for playing in one event but because they are not able to afford buying a Thakil (costs approx ₹15000), they end up paying ₹300 rent for every performance.
Murali's family of 4 includes his wife and their two children. He works part-time as a construction worker for survival while Sivan's family includes his physically challenged brother, and his elderly mother. He also works as a part-time tiles worker with little to go on. The pandemic closed the possibilities of marriage functions/ temple programmes, bringing this performing art to a standstill. With our Vaapsi (bringing back) initiative of reviving rural livelihood, Goonj reached out and provided thakils worth Rs. 15000 to each of these artists, freeing them from the burden of paying rent. It's also a step towards reviving a unique musical tradition.
India's artists and artisans are in dire straits in the villages of India. What's the solution for them? Should they give up their art and craft and learn a skill to find a job in a city, to serve our needs? Would that be just their loss or our collective loss - of our traditions, culture and heritage? Goonj works on creating a chain of dignity, respect and value from the cities to the villages of India.
Through the experimental and innovative 'Vaapsi' livelihood initiative, we have reached, and continue to reach the disaster hit, far-flung villages. Thus, revitalizing the economy and enabling people to be independent and self-sustaining. By valuing what they know and have, their wisdom, goals and skills; the needs of the area are assessed and dignified opportunities for work are presented to them. This gives them something to value at a time of loss.