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The Kerala woman who fed monkeys for 25 years using her daily wage

Mannikamma at her residence in Kasargod, Kerala

For the last few months, this 85-year-old woman of Edayilakkadu in Kasargod has missed her most favourite daily activity of feeding monkeys of a nearby sacred grove which she has been doing for the last 25 years.

Despite her poor finances, Mannikkamma of Challil Veedu in Edayilakkadu used to buy fruits and other food items to feed the monkeys daily for years. However, her health deteriorated recently and she was forced to give up this daily routine, which was started by her mother and continued by her after her mother’s death.

But now she is very much worried about the safety of the monkeys after she heard about a tragic death of a baby monkey which was recently run over by a vehicle on the road adjacent to the sacred grove while searching for food.

According to Mannikkamma, she used to feed the monkeys inside the grove to ensure that they didn’t come out in search of food. “I have been doing it regularly for all these years. We need to take care of the monkeys,” she said. The grove is now home to over 30 monkeys.

Mannikkamma has appealed to the people to take care of the monkeys. “She used to buy fruits for the monkeys from the wages she earned as a worker of MGNREGA. A couple of months back she had a fall and her health condition became bad. Now she can’t even walk properly. So, she stopped going outside alone,” said her daughter Shakunthala C, who is now looking after Mannikkamma.

“In fact, it was a sight to behold when monkeys used to flock around her with affection whenever she called them to feed them,” Shakunthala added.

Valiyaparamba panchayat president V V Sajeevan said the monkeys started coming out of the grove after Mannikkamma couldn’t visit the forest to feed them. “We are aware of the situation and really concerned about the safety of the monkeys. The panchayat has decided to protect the small forest as it comes under biodiversity zone. We have placed boards warning vehicles to go slowly through the road. The panchayat is consulting with the forest department about the issue,” he said.

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