ALAPPUZHA: Rajimol is a 32-year-old nurse living on a small island, R block, in Kuttanad. Her journey to the SNDP Higher Secondary School at Kanjiram in Kottayam, starts at 8 am. She is neither working nor studying at the school, but spends her day time on the corridors of the school thinking it would give her children, Abhinav and Abhirami,a future.
Rajimol with her husband Rajesh, who had been a boat shrank, raised two children. But since the children started schooling, Rajimol had to abandon her nursing job in Alappuzha to accompany her children to the school every day. Like Rajimol, quite a few mothers are taking up the same task of travelling daily on Alappuzha-Kanjiram ferry to meet almost the same end. Till the time they could go back in memory, there has been no school on the island.
From 2011, since Rajimol started the daily practice of travelling to Kanjiram, there has been only one ferry service in a day from the island. And there had been a number of occasions when the children had to cancell schooling as there had been no boats turning up.
Getting out to the mainland Alappuzha is also a tough job for the islanders. There’s been no ferry to Alappuzha too. The only way out is to get themselves to Kanjiram first and catch the ferry to Alappuzha.
According to Rajimol, the islanders had constructed a temporary pier last year on a cost of `30,000 to avoid the tiring one-and-a-half km walk to the northern pier where the boats used to arrive. It’s from the new pier they board the boat now, she said. Almost 130 families comprising 450 people live on the island, which is a five sq km area reclaimed on various occasions. In spite of the various developments in Kuttanad, R block still seems an isolated island, said Rajimol.
Mohanan, who lived in almost centre of the island, said that they had been living like adivasis in forest regions-totally separated. It required more than one hour to walk down to the bund where the ferry arrived. To get to the mainland, the only means was ferry which turned up once in a while, he said.
The erratic transportation cost them heavily. Without a regular ferry service they had not even been able to go for work or send their children to school. Although run by the state water transport, ferry there seemed thoroughly unpredictable.
The uncertainties in the island, however, have forced a few of them to leave the island and settle on mainland. “Rented house has been costing me a fortune,” said Mohanan.
Rainy seasons gave them too much of the woes. Water inundate houses. The islanders have to seek shelter in their relatives’ houses sometimes. Those who return to their houses are welcomed by poisonous as well as man-eating snakes.
Last season, they had to kill four cobras in various houses, said Rajimol.
Most of the islanders have been tenants for the last 50 years and more. They had been brought from areas far and near in connection with farming. Landlords also abandoned them except a few occasional visits, especially when the farming took place.
In spite of the complaints and personal visits they made to the authorities and that went unattended, they still strive for their livelihood with whatever means they have. Many among them are still confined to the five-cent land they have been gifted with.
“We are not still without hope, we also have a future,” asserted Rajimol, before stepping on to one of the boats with her children.