Cyclone Gaja, which struck coastal Tamil Nadu last week, has left a trail of destruction along the delta region in the state.

No sugarcane for Pongal rue farmers in Thanjavur after Cyclone Gaja razes crops
news Cyclone Gaja Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - 11:54

As overcast skies loom over Thanjavur district on Tuesday, Mari Susai is sitting in his field, taking stock of the damage that Friday's cyclone unleashed.

Acres of purple and green sugarcane crops that were to be primed and plucked for Pongal 2019, now lay tilted, threatening to wither away. While smaller saplings have survived the onslaught of the cyclone, the crops that have grown four to five feet in height have a tough road ahead.

“This is the main harvest this season and it has been ruined. We can try our best but what can be done? The winds have torn them down. Then the rains came and washed away the soil,” laments Mari, a farmer from Valamarkottai.

Dorai Rasu, another farmer working in a field adjoining Mari's is gathering the disintegrated soil with both hands, hoping to coax them back into a sturdy union. The main focus of these sugarcane farmers over the next couple of days is to restore their crops to the extent possible.

“This is the last resort. There will be nothing for Pongal. All the trees have fallen. This was supposed to fetch us Rs 1 lakh for 10,000 sugarcanes,” says Dorai, hoping against hope that he can make the first row of sugarcane crops face skywards by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Madheswaran nearby is tying up four sugarcanes a bunch, using their long, pointed leaves as a flexible rope. With limited water, they hope to distribute the nourishment quicker across the crops, as opposed to spraying them individually.

Hailing from Kattur, Madheswaran fears the overcast skies would ruin these last-ditch efforts too.

“Whether we are compensated for these losses or not, we have to rebuild our lives ourselves. We have to start. Some of us have lost our homes, some of us have not. I have not, so I will help them,” he says, pointing to his friends Mari and Dorai.

Even as they hope for some respite, either from nature or the state, the trio gets back to work, delicately hoisting the nearly-succulent sugarcanes skywards.

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