Millions of livelihoods have been lost in Tamil Nadu, one of India’s best-developed states, in the last few decades. When livelihoods are demolished, it’s not just the economy that disintegrates. Culture does too.
Across the country, food, sports, clothes, worship, and leisure are all influenced by local and long-standing occupations. Which in turn anchor and sustain livelihoods; many that are ancient, complex and beautiful. They require prodigious skill sets and are physically gruelling. Yet, despite being central and integral to society, much of the work is financially unrewarding, constrained by caste and gender and the skills are largely unrecognised. This talk will share stories of the daily struggles of the practitioners of traditional livelihoods in Tamil Nadu to keep alive the culture that we proudly flaunt. Unsurprisingly, most of them say: ‘let this end with me.’
Aparna Karthikeyan is a storyteller and independent journalist and the author of a non-fiction book on the disappearing livelihoods of Tamil Nadu titled Nine Rupees an Hour, She volunteers for the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and has written for them, as well as for The Hindu, The Caravan, The Wire, Scroll.in and other publications on culture, books, and livelihoods. She has published short fiction and books for children. She lives in Mumbai with her husband, daughter, and dogs.