Joy of ferry rides cheaper than therapy!

She said this stepmotherly treatment from the officials has had many islanders abandon the very idea of seeking public transport for their daily commute.

Published: 26th January 2023 06:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2023 06:21 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: In September 2022, the Malayalam film industry’s emerging star Anna Ben wrote a pointed letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan bringing to his notice the plight of Vypeen residents in commuting to Kochi.  In her letter, she drew attention to the 18-year-long delay in allowing buses from the region to enter the city, which is only a stone’s throw away.

She said this stepmotherly treatment from the officials has had many islanders abandon the very idea of seeking public transport for their daily commute. However, for the majority, who work in the city for meagre wages, the kindness of strangers is the only resort.

The 27-year-old’s letter was an impetus to a renewed conversation on the Goshree islands, also home to the late Sahodaran Ayyappan, a social reformer and politician who played an instrumental role in shaping several developmental projects in Kerala. In fact, one of the key arterial roads in Kochi is named after Ayyappan. 

It is perhaps this striking irony here that prompted a major political party, sidelined for an unprecedented second term, to poke the embers for political mileage. This is the same clutch who, despite holding the key to the city’s fortunes for years, failed to devise any constructive step and resolve this very dilemma.

In any case, the months that followed saw a slew of protests demanding permits for Goshree buses to enter Kochi limits and further, for its seamless integration to augment city services. The protests are not new. Since 2004, when work on the Goshree bridges was complete, people here have upped the ante on multiple occasions when officials overlooked their region, which is only 6 kilometres away from the city’s heart, for other suburban areas on the fringes.

But I argue that in giving undue importance to road transport, what the firebrand actor and these sellsword politicians have likely done is blindside the public to the real need of the hour — a seamless water transportation network. 

Kochi is blessed with a network of canals and waterways which, if used diligently, will peel away a layer of needless stress from the city roads and ease traffic snarls. Regular ferries from the islands to the mainland, if integrated well with the Kochi Metro, can usher in a new age for the wannabe metropolis. It will also prove a catalyst for the expansion of the city in a manner that is unrivalled in its history. Besides, that is the future. 

It is not an alien idea to think that the core of the city would in time become a pedestrian-only zone; that buses, given the unruly way KSRTC goes about its affairs, is likely to not even leave the shed, never mind connect us to our destinations.

While it can be argued that these ambitious proposals can come hand-in-hand with the request of Vypeen residents, I only moot the idea that if it took nearly 60 years for the bridges to come up and over 18 years for the permits, it could very well take decades before we see a full-fledged water network on the horizon. So might as well strike the match now and hope that there’s someone like Anna at the end of this road who can get the CM’s ear.

That’s not all. Road transport is a remnant from another decade. In an age of “fast everything”, the thrill of a slow ferry ride is indeed quite something. One need only ask the Fort Kochi and Mattancherry residents who take it to commute to the city. To feel the waves beneath your feet, have the wind in your hair and sun on your face. To have a seat! This feeling is cheaper than therapy. Hell, at `6, it is even cheaper than chai!

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