08, Nov 2022 | Mohammed Ripon Sheikh
Autumn in Rural Bengal is beautiful. With its perfectly stretched green paddy fields, plump cotton clouds in the background, elongated magic hours and songs of migratory birds, the sight and sound is an experience to people who come from outside. What’s particularly mesmerising is the long stretches of Kaash phool or Kaans Grass, along the humongous fields, river banks and railway tracks. The exhilarating compositions of Kaashphool can be witnessed in Satyajit Ray’s cult-classic Pather Panchali.
Needless to say, fields of Kaash phool cannot serve nostalgia alone. Widespread poverty and unemployment ensures that even the kashful is used to provide livelihood and income. So local residents have been trying to set up a business around it.
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Once autumn sets, they follow a very interesting routine to bring this idea to fruition. They start cutting the longer branches of Kaash phool – they then cut them into bunches almost replicating a bouquet of flowers. After that, they lay those bunches on the roads of the village. Buses are running continuously on these roads. If a bus steps on it, the thick upper part of the branch falls off. The white part inside the stem comes out easily. This white part is very useful in creating goods like brooms, mats, seats and decorations. The women of Burdwan, Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia districts soon get to work – making various products from these freshly engineered Kaash phool sticks. They are also largely considered to be an important material to manufacture handmade paper.
Afroza Bibi, a resident of Birbhum, says, “These brooms and mats are made from Kaash phool and it’s extremely convenient for cleaning your house. Grass-flowers or Kaash phool grow at the base of hilly regions, are in high demand now.”
Saimuddin Saikh, another resident of Birbhum, says, “Starting from village town to city port, Kaash phool is valued in almost every house. These are grown naturally in different areas of South Bengal and is a good source of income in the local bazaars, for men and women of the region. Many people now choose this as an alternative source of income. Each broomstick is made of 20 to 25 flower petals. It is sold to traders in the market for Rs. 20-Rs. 30 each.”
Today, Kaash phool is being collected from Birbhum, East Burdwan, Bankura and Midnapore regions under the initiative of small and medium Industry Department. Before Durga Puja 2022, a notice was sent to the district magistrate’s office to get official information about the collection of Kaash phool. The district administration is responsible for collecting them from certain places. Currently, the Government of Bengal is conducting research on how to utilise the fiber of Kaans in black castor seeds or implement them into making more household goods like cushions and mattresses.
This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by aspiring journalist and student activist Ripon Sheikh from Birbhum in West Bengal. In these reports Ripon looks at the people around him – migrant workers, the families they leave behind, agricultural labourers, women who do housework, rural artisans and young people, with a keen sense of compassion.
Meet CJP Grassroot Fellow Mohammed Ripon Sheikh
This young man, who has graduated with a B.Sc degree from Burdwan University, loves trivia. Sheikh’s passion to research and seek “unknown information about World History” has earned him many medals and trophies at various University and state-level Quiz championships, and youth festivals. Sheikh is a born orator and a natural community leader. He has the potential to represent his community, state and country at a global level one day. His immediate goal, however, is to find a job so he can support his parents.
Image courtesy: YouTube screen grab / Satyajit Ray