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When they had to walk miles to catch a bus

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FRESH IN MEMORIES: The picture of the first bus stand in Kattappana, which was taken by an unknown photographer in 1969.
FRESH IN MEMORIES: The picture of the first bus stand in Kattappana, which was taken by an unknown photographer in 1969.

Giji K. Raman

For the early settlers of Idukki, bus journey was a luxury taken out once or twice a year.

KATTAPPANA: Even as a modern bus stand complex was inaugurated here on Saturday, the old generation still keeps live memories of the first bus stand, where a maximum of two or three buses could be parked at a time.

The first bus stand, which had a few grass-thatched sheds housing shops, is now used as a parking lot. “The photograph of the first bus stand was taken by an unknown photographer in 1969,'' says T.C. Reji, a photographer here. Vakkachan Kalayathinal, one of the earliest settlers, gifted a copy of the photograph to Mr. Reji 20 years ago. The farmers in the remote areas had to travel miles on foot to catch a bus and it took a whole day to reach the neighbouring districts. Kattappana area, which is still included in the Central government's records as a forest area, depended mostly on the neighbouring districts, especially Kottayam, for everything, except food items.

For the ordinary settler, the journey was a luxury, which was done once or twice a year along with the entire family. They often had to brave wild animals on the way. K.K. Kuttappan, a resident of Mele Chinnar, said that he had to walk nearly 20 km on foot to reach the bus stand.

Kattappana became a prime business centre after Ayyappanacoil, the main high range market, was acquired for the Idukki hydroelectric project. The first bus conducted service from Kottayam to Ayyappancoil, which is near Upputhara, one of the earliest settlement areas.

Kuttachan, a farmer from Parakkadavu, still keeps memories of walking till Thonithady, near Ayyappancoil, about 25 km from their house, . “The travel used to start early in the morning with food packets and during night we used to stay at some relative's house,'' he said.

The fast development of the town prompted the opening of the second bus stand in the 1980s. In 2006, work began for the new bus stand.

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