Sitting on her mother’s lap, nine-month old Sreebhadra looked out from the boat at the expanse of backwaters with wide-eyed excitement even as her parents’ eyes exchanged memories of their romance that flowered during many such boat journeys.
The boat and the backwaters have been the permanent backdrop of the love affair that blossomed between Unnikrishnan and Shilpa. For, it was during their boat journeys in the Vypeen-Ernakulam stretch that they met and eventually fell in love.
When the bell rang and the boat drifted off the Vypeen jetty 12 minutes past 12 noon on Wednesday, many such sweeping memories came rushing to the minds of 80-odd passengers aboard the vessel. The journey organised to celebrate the ferry service, which had been the lifeline of the islanders till the Goshree Bridges reached out to the city in 2004, was an occasion for them to once again share seats with their old boat mates, now lifelong friends, and relive the beautiful memories of journeys during all those years back.
Unnikrishnan and Shilpa were among the two couples who were accorded a reception during the course of the journey at Vypeen.
Antony Raj also found his life partner, who was then a polytechnic student at Kalamassery, on the boat during his graduation days at St. Albert’s College. “We met aboard the boat in 1975 and got married five years later,” he recollected.
Ayyappan Master recollected the agitation launched under the aegis of Island Day Scholars Association, of which he was the president then, in 1963 for student’s pass for free trip on boats.
Mathews Puthussery, a school teacher, cherish memories of agitations for better boat services and a referendum held among the boat passengers on a proposal to merge Kinco and KSRTC boat services during the late 1980s. “It was agitations like these that turned youngsters of the time in to socially responsible citizens. Ferry services were also platforms for heated debates on anything under the sun. The bridge and the resultant slump in boat services have taken away that space,” he said.
K.K. Joshy, a professor, remembered how the boats were packed to rafters and yet no one complained as the relationship among the passengers was strong. “That’s why I say that the bridge may well have brought development but it’s one that broke friendships,” he said.
P.P. Joshy, President’s award-winning teacher and a boat passenger for 24 long years, said there were life threatening experiences when the boats lost control in the shipping channel and drifted towards the sea.
Raveendran T.K., working with Indian Medical Association, said that night trips during monsoons were often scary. “Caught in strong winds, the boat rocked violently and it was often private boats and coast guard alerted by the screams of frightened passengers that towed the boat to safety,” he said.
M.K. Seery, a cartoonist, couldn’t find many familiar faces around on Wednesday. But that was natural since he is one of the oldest passengers around with his tryst with the ferry service dating back to 1958. “EMS-led Communist government and the Liberation Struggle against that regime were topics of heated debate during those days,” he said while recollecting that it was Sahodaran Ayyappan as a minister in the Thiru-Kochi Assembly who first mooted the idea of bridges linking the islands.
Benny P. Nayarambalam, screenplay writer, said boat journeys and the people he met have always influenced his writing.
The accolades for organising the event, named a boat journey down the memory lane, went to Sivadas Nayarambalam and Anil.
Earlier, U.V. Hassan gave a speech at the Vypeen jetty reminiscent of many such speeches he held in his capacity as the convener of the Passengers Action Council for effective operation of ferry services. M.V. Joseph, a boat driver who had saved seven lives, was felicitated.
Sreebhadra was all smiles as her parents joined the rest of the passengers for a sumptuous feast when the trip ended in Vypeen.