In Pursuit Of The Padekar

Since the days of yore toddy tapping and coconut plucking have been one of the main traditional occupations of Goa. Right up until the turn of the millennial they were a common sight. The soul of every Goan village as were the farmers, fishermen, and bakers. Having plenty of coconut trees in one’s garden was another typical feature of every Goan home. Gardens looked incomplete without scattered palm trees spread out across the yard.

The Konkani term for a Coconut plucker is “Padekar” and this occupation has been passed down for generations. Donned in a “Kashti” – traditional loincloth, the padekar makes cuts in the coconut tree to make climbing easier. Equipped with a “Koito” – machete, and a “damonen” – urn, the padekar climbs up the tree with a harness. The urn is used to collect “sur” – sap (toddy) from the palm leaves. The coconuts are collected in a basket by the family members gathered around.

During the old times, the padekar would be paid fifty per cent in cash and fifty per cent in coconuts. This form of payment died out during modern times where the padekar would charge a hundred rupees per tree. Coconut plucking was done every three months right through the year except during the monsoons which start in June and end during the first week of October.

Nowadays, finding a padekar to hire for plucking of coconuts is as good as trying to search for a needle in a haystack. One of Goa’s traditional occupation has died a slow death. Of course, one will no longer see a padekar in a kashti. They now wear shorts and a t-shirt. To stay abreast with modern times, they use a contraption called a “Cocoman coconut tree climbing machine”. It makes the whole process easier and faster. Coconut plucking is almost extinct in the land where it was once a well-known sight.