Months after she shot to fame for making and selling idlies for a rupee, 80-year-old Kamalathal from Coimbatore district, today waits for better times. Promises made to her are yet to be fulfilled, she says.
Kamalathal is still waiting for the promised house that is to be built on land to be given by the government. "Life goes on. People came and took videos and went. My life goes on," she tells TNM from the sidelines of 'We the Women' in Bengaluru, an event curated by Barkha Dutt for Facebook and UN Women.
The idli paati, as she is fondly called, says that the quality of life has not changed much after the coverage she got. "After many people took videos, some people came and told me that they will give me land. I am still waiting for that," she explains. A source close to Kamalathal adds that people close to the local MLA had allegedly promised to give land. "Based on that, the District Collector had promised to arrange to construct a house on that land under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (a central government housing for all scheme). Neither of it has happened for paati," the source says.
After videos and stories of Kamalathal making idlis in a woodfired stove went viral, help poured in for her from various quarters. While all three public sector petroleum companies in India -- Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited -- offered free gas stoves and a lifetime supply of commercial gas cylinders, Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra group of companies had also promised to invest in her business. "We are getting the help promised by the gas companies. They are prompt in supplying cylinders for her within hours of the older one gets finished," says the source. One commercial gas cylinder lasts for about a week for Kamalathal.
Her shop is in the front portion of her humble house near Pooluvapatti village, in the outskirts of Coimbatore. "When it rains, the shop gets filled with water. That day it will be tough for me to cook. I don't depend on anyone to help me either," she explains about the need for a decent house.
For Kamalathal, making and selling idlis is her entire world. "I am selling 500-600 idlies every day. Sales has not gone up much. But it is good. In the last 30 years I have been selling idlis, I may have abstained from cooking for around 180 days. I don't know anything other than this," she says humbly.
TNM has reached out to the Coimbatore District Collector for a comment. However, he is yet to respond to TNM’s queries.