I buy a bunch of tobacco from the Taungyi markets and then I roll them back into traditional cheeroots. I guess you can call me a merchant of sorts. My family used to grow tomatoes but it was too costly to invest in, so I decided to take this up. We lost a lot of money investing in tomatoes, particularly as the price is going down. There isn’t enough fresh water and the seasons are unpredictable anyway, so we’ve had to look for a means to supplement our income.
My husband, Ko Tin Maung Shwe also used to fish but it’s been a long time since he has done that as a profession. He is a boat driver now and we are able to look after our three children with our combined income.
I hire other women from this village to help me roll the cheeroots. On average, each of us rolls about 500 a day so if there are four of us, around 2000 cheeroots. The work is tedious but we are good company to each other. We do get pains in our wrists and elbows from the repetitive work but I suppose it could be worse.
We chop up the tobacco, which is quite rough, then we roll them into dried tobacco leaves and use a rice-based glue to seal them. The tobacco itself is not the best quality, the finer quality leaf goes into cigars, which I don’t make. My cheeroots are not flavoured. I know others line the tobacco leaf with honey or even rose petals but this is straight up tobacco from Myingyan in middle Myanmar.
Once we’ve got a large enough batch rolled up, we on-sell to other merchants back in Taungyi market where I buy raw tobacco again, and then start the process all over again.
Daw Ni Ni Htay
Pauk Parr village