Flotilla of books to welcome travellers in Kerala's Panavally

After the success of its pilot project, the department is all set to introduce floating libraries in its ferry boats operating in the Panavally-Poothotta and Ernakulam-Fort Kochi sections.
A passenger boat doubled up as a floating library at Muhamma in Alappuzha
A passenger boat doubled up as a floating library at Muhamma in AlappuzhaPhoto | T P Sooraj

KOCHI: As the nation observed National Reading Day on June 19, the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) is making a silent yet effective contribution to developing the reading habits of hundreds of commuters across the state by doubling its ferry boats as floating libraries.

“Who wouldn’t like to flip a few pages of an interesting novel or story while enjoying the cool breeze of the backwaters? We’re introducing more floating libraries in ferry services with limited stops and a sailing period of at least 20 minutes,” M Sujith, Traffic Superintendent, Ernakulam region, told TNIE.

After the success of its pilot project in the Muhamma-Kumarakom route, the department is all set to introduce ‘Pusthakathoni’ (floating libraries) in its ferry boats operating in Panavally-Poothotta and Ernakulam-Fort Kochi sections as well.

“In the Panavally-Poothotta section, a 45-minute journey by boat, the Naduvathul Islam UP School has evinced interest in sponsoring and setting up a library on the ferry boat plying there. In Ernakulam, many have approached us, evincing interest. We hope to introduce the facility soon,” the official said.

The ‘floating libraries’ were first introduced in two ferry boats (S-52 and S-55) operating in the Muhamma-Kumarakom section. It all started when the A B Vilasam Higher Secondary School students in Muhamma, under the aegis of the National Service Scheme (NSS), proposed the idea of opening a mini-library on the boat jetty.

SWTD Muhamma station master K S Shanavas then asked them why a floating library could not be set up on the boats itself, that could take the passengers to the world of literary wonders during the nearly 40-minute ride.

“CMS College, Kottayam, then chipped in with interesting books and now the floating libraries in the two boats number over 250. The initiative turned out to be a big success, with many of the passengers devouring books of their choice during the boat journeys. Schoolchildren too were excited to find their choice of books among the collections,” Sujith pointed out.

The success prompted SWTD to introduce the initiative in more boats. “A similar floating library was introduced in the boat operating in the Edathua-Chambakulam section a few months back. We got encouraging responses again and the same prompted us to introduce the floating libraries in more sections like Panavally,” he added.

“This is a very good initiative and they have a wonderful collection of books, including those by legendary authors like Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. It’s really a great feeling to flip through a few pages amid the cool breeze from the backwater and the feeble sound of the boat moving along the water. But what I liked best was that the initiative brings books closer to ordinary people in regions that lack good library services,” reflected Vijayan Karumandy, a native of Atholi, Kozhikode, after arriving at Muhamma in the boat ‘S-55’.

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