Post by NandaKishore Vijayakumar

Bharathapuzha, Cheruthuruthy & Shoranur lying on it’s opposite banks, and the bridge which connected both shores, all had something to flaunt. Cheruthuruthy adorned by Kalamandalam is connected to the largest railway junction in Kerala, across the longest river of Kerala by this bridge, which had the historic significance of being the connecting link between the erstwhile kingdoms of Cochin & Malabar. Some of these titles have lost sheen since – while Kalamandalam continues to shine bright & Bharathapuzha continues to be the longest river, Shoranur has lost in prominence as a railway hub & alas, the latest news is that the bridge has fallen.

Old Cheruthuruthy bridge fallen – what used to be our ancestral place is visible at a distance, lost in the greenery (picture courtesy: Deccan Chronicle)

For some of us, this river, bridge & this place stokes myriad memories of zillion hues. A place where we spent a good part of our childhood & vacations! We used to have a great time running around in the vast sand dunes near this bridge, playing flying disc, sculpting crude shapes with the moist sand & bathing in the small puddles dotting the riverbed. An evening trip to the river was considered a welcome break from the dark rooms & corridors of our huge archaic riverside bungalow.

We as children used to gaze at the bridge traffic from the shore & used to pick fun in identifying the buses crossing the bridge just by the growl of the engine & its honk. I remember that my cousins used to have an amazing ability at this. And the bus services we had those days also bring nostalgic memories – Rajeev, Karippal, T.R.Nair, Mayilvahanam, Raj, Maya, to name a few. Most of these are still running, I believe.

Talking about this single lane bridge, brinkmanship by bus drivers coming from either sides were commonplace. Many a times, one of the buses had to back up, sometimes even from up to the middle of the bridge, after being caught in this game. Even with no pedestrian pathway, we used to have evening stroll along this bridge with elders, enjoying the evening sun flaunting his colors at the vast horizon.

Even as children, Shoranur – our across-the-bank town – which had the claim to the busiest railway junction in the state, where even the fastest express trains had no option but to stop, which had 7 platforms, which could boast of being a 4-way junction, was our unmistakable pride. We used to feel awed by my father’s childhood tales of how Shoranur used to be a railway hub buzzing with activity even back those days. I remember him explaining the facilities railway had stationed in Shoranur, which included a hydraulic system used for shunting. I should say that the pride we had in the railway legacy of Shoranur was a natural extension of our childhood fascination for trains – those powerful machines running on a thousand horses, ferrying people to those faraway places & big cities which we as kids had only heard in bed-time stories. One such train which caught our imagination was Himasagar express, with such a poetic name, which connected Kanyakumari with Kashmir.

Coming back to Bharathapuzha, we were witness to her being relentlessly bashed & bruised and brought to the brink of death with mindless & relentless sand mining. Truck lanes through sand were paved using dried coconut palm leaves. From our place, we could see endless streams of trucks lining up to fill sand, day in & day out. From the time I remember her, she had dried up & had ceased to be a flowing river. She just had puddles of water scattered across, most of which would be no more than knee deep. As sand mining went on unchecked, she began to grow sick, with the sand giving way to slime in many places. Vegetation began to grow & there was every possibility of the river turning into a vast bushy marsh. Thankfully, since the restrictions in sand mining were introduced, things have changed for better.

Once the new bridge came up, the old bridge was being used by pedestrians. As this historic relic – a colorful image closely linked to the childhood memories for some of us – fell victim to a long legacy of unabated environmental abuse, it creates a stirring which may never find a proper expression.

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Hey all….I know. Not updating the blog is a cardinal sin. Especially after installing a new app on the BB etc, things should have gotten a little more easier. But I promise…from now you shall see more from this side of the world. Anyhow, todays post is a very sepcial one. It is a beautiful memoir by Nandakishore Vijaykumar ( my close friend  brother). So, while I get ready to start writing all over again, please enjoy yourselves with this beautiful piece)

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