Green chilly cultivation is the primary source of bread for small scale farmers like Ramalingham. Green chillies are occasionally accompanied by Ulandhu, a typical South Indian spice often used in local cuisine. Sakkamma said, “We grow chillies because they are convinient and not because the soil is best suited for them.” By convenient Sakkama meant that a single plant of green chilly sprouts numerous chilly peppers, which is profitable to the farmers.
When these chillies burst in to life, they are traded off to the buyers from various neighbouring cities like Thoothukudi, Kovilpatti, Paramakudi, etc. However, safeguarding the continuity of these chillies is quite a task.
Being a coastal region, salt pans sound like the obvious alternative, but sadly employment there is again seasonal. Government’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has come to the rescue of many idle farmers, ensuring them 100 days of assured employment in an year. But as it turns out, the payment procedure there isn't all that smooth either. Also, NREGA policies allow employment to just one person per family.
Despite all the farming woes, these farmers ensure that they provide good education to their children. Ramalingham’s two teenaged daughters attend the local government school, while his 23-year-old son is pursuing engineering in Vembar Polytechnic College. A majority of the Melmanthai farmers have not relied on loans to educate their children. They have been digging into their savings to do so.
B. Kuruswami, a farmer in his late 60’s, in a rather paradoxical statement said, “The floods last year were a boon for us. The excessive water was extremely beneficial for the crops. The harvest was superb.” The general condition of the Memanthai farmers is so lamentable that they actually rejoiced over a calamity.