Women's Day Special: Libi Soni, the lone woman who works in a field dominated by men

Women's Day Special: Libi Soni, the lone woman who works in a field dominated by men
Libi Soni

“Hello, isn’t it APK demolishing?


Isn’t your brother there? Please give the phone to him.

Please let me know the matter. Where is the location?

Please give the phone to your brother. I will tell him.

I am that demolishing brother"—Libi would often say with a smile. In fact, she had to repeat this so many times in the last 10 years!

A woman taking up razing work is still unheard of in our society. But Koorkencheri Erukulathu Libi Soni is rewriting the patriarchal rules in society. In the last 8 years, she has undertaken the demolition work of small houses to Kaloor Indoor Stadium and Nedumbasherry International Airport.

Libi’s Tool Kit

Athanithaikkattil Libi Soni had finished her graduation in Malayalam when she got married to Koorkencheri Erukulathu family. Her husband’s family was in the business of renting tool kits needed for construction works. Surplus tools, little manpower was the situation there.

While enquiring about the tools, there were requests for demolition work. It was Libi who recognised a business prospect in that line of work. Since she had not learned Architectural Engineering, Libi felt there was no harm in entering the razing work. She procured quality work tools from Kerala and outside the State and hired locals for the job. That was how she started. Some of the tools in her kitty sound overwhelming- breaker, cutter, core cutting machine, drill, grinder.

First was locker

Now comes the part of her debut demolishing work. And it must start on a promising note. She was called to cut open the locker of a jewellery shop (Thrissur Puthan Pallikara’s KT Jewellery). That gave her confidence. This was exactly 10 years ago. Soon small and big orders came her way. When Libi realised that there were few takers to do Pile camp breaking for big buildings, she turned her attention to them. She has taken pile camp breaking contract work for Shobha City Mall.

Libi will be the first one to visit the site camp and the one to take all the decisions.

First, let us please build this

Now the next step was to get as many orders as possible. She issued a business card with the name APK Demolition imprinted on it and started visited many work sites. Libi visited all the construction sites and circulated her card. She still remembers the comment of a worker who stared at her card and then looked at her and quipped- “Let us please build this site first, lady, and then you can think of demolishing it.”

They also undertake drilling and pipe fixing works. According to Libi’s theory, at any house construction site, there will be flattening work. She recalls razing down a building at night in the capital city. Since there was a beverages corporation outlet under the building, it was impossible to do the demolishing work during the day. She would take a train to Thiruvananthapuram every evening carrying a tool kit for the night work. Her workers were provided rooms there and Libi would return the next day early morning. She has only encountered helpful people during her work, like TTR’s who would assist her with her heavy took kits during her train journeys.

Demolishing the Kaloor stadium walls to make it centralized air conditioning and Nedumbasherry International Airports Piling camp cuts are some of her main works.

Difficult to say NO!

In the last 10 years, she has demolished over 500 sites, and that includes razing the rocks under the wells and road building. Libi is not unduly worried about the volume of her work or as to what time of the day her work is allotted. Anywhere in Kerala, her priorities and work timings remain the same. If asked to pick a flattening work that was the toughest, she talks about the Manarkkad Kanjirapally Dam’s Guest House demolition work. Since the building was several years old, the concrete was tough to flatten. Equally tough is to demolish the houses made of the soil from Bharathapuzha.

The lone girl standing

There is a WhatsApp group called concrete cutting with over 114 members. Libi understandably is the only woman in that group. Though she has used every available tool in her kitty, Libi gives credit to her workforce. And of course, the unstinted support of her family.

She also admits the gender bias she has often encountered at the workplace since this is a field where women rarely venture. Many of them would drop the deal when they realise that she is a woman. Libi obviously cares two hoots about such prejudices. She has always taken the road less travelled and looks like she is here to stay.  

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