The 90-day cycling journey has completed one week and Pandian says that the campaign is very much the need of the hour. “There are five tinais (terrains) — kurinji (hilly/mountain region), palai (parched/drylands), mullai (pastoral tract), marutam (wet/agricultural lands) and neital (coastal area). We wanted to present palm as the sixth terrain. That’s why we have given the logo as panai engal thinai. The palm tree is the state tree of Tamil Nadu. There were many palm trees and palm tree climbers in the state. But now youngsters are not willing to take up palm tree climbing as a livelihood. Also, if this continues the number of palm trees will come down. Through this cycling campaign, we are raising awareness about palm tree climbing and the importance of preserving palm trees,” Pandian says.
In the past week, the team of six has visited Villupuram, Thiruvannamalai, Ranipet and Vellore. Apart from Pandian, the team includes two palm tree climbers, one palm leaf craft maker, Pandian’s 14-year-old daughter and another girl, who is Pandian’s friend’s daughter. “Whenever we visit a village, we teach the palm tree climbers the importance of the work they do. We also talk about palm tree food products like karupatti, padhaneer, nungu. Though these have various nutritional properties, many don’t use them. I am not sure if it is because these food products are not marketed properly or not. In general, palm tree climbers are being marginalised and neglected by authorities. We hope that attitude change with our cycling tour,” he adds.