Friday, January 7, 2011

A True Story

Grandchildren are indeed a temptation for any of us; their curiosity, eager questions, and excited eyes. It is for them we create history; to satiate their curiosity, answer those eager questions, and to fill those bright eyes with more excitement. Every one of us desire to leave such a story behind that would later around a campfire or an armchair inform what we were and in what proud siege we had conquered all the worries and occupied success even after shattering ourselves in the storm of failures. Ajay Sangeeth is one of them who had revived history. He recreated the age old traditional boat service across the Anjarakandy River for the people of Muzhappilangad. His grandchildren will surely have a lot of stories to tell their grand children.

The river, known by the name Anjarakandy River, skirts Dharmadam village separating it from the main land. Dharmadam village would look like an island in a sky view, with its three sides surrounded by sea and with one side, river. The part of main land that shares the Anjarakandy River is Muzhappilangad.

Under the auspices of the people’s committee, Mr. Sangeeth, the convener, had re-established the traditional boat service. The jetty was in use for over forty years until six years back. “Our attempt was to renovate the old jetty. I have an emotional attachment with it. It is part of my history, our history, the history of Muzhailangad,” Sangeeth said.

It was December and the time for he annual maintenance work for the boat. Even though, the financial benefit from the boat service was meager, the committee wanted it to be run efficiently. On a Tuesday morning second week in December, Sangeeth received a phone call. He identified the person on the other side as the worker assigned for taking the wooden boat out of the river. What he said was a terrible thing that Sangeeth did not want to believe, but had to, because it was reality.

Sangeeth was confident that the threat that was dreaded all along from the day of re-establishing the boat service, would never approach their boat—the sand exploiters. The river, especially the part of the river where the jetty worked was under their ‘reign’. They mined sand from the river, illegally.

A jetty working there with people crossing the river in a boat every now and then would be a serious threat to the privacy the miners enjoyed. So there were chances that they could interfere into the boat service. They could even burn the boat down. They had thugs and money and political holds in respected positions of government, as well. Every one knew this in the village. And that exactly was the reason for Sangeeth’s confidence. When every one knew how grave a threat the boat service was causing to the sand miners and how badly the miners wanted to destroy the boat, they would not do anything in the fear of being exposed publicly.

“The boat is missing!” the voice from the other end said.
“What? What happened? Did you check every where?” Sangeeth enquired back.
There was a silence and then: “The boat has been missing for the last three days. I came here on Saturday and could not find it. I thought you or some one else from the committee might have taken it out from the river along with the Friday night’s up-tide. Then the next day I was busy with something and could not come around. I searched everywhere on the river shore on Monday but the boat was nowhere to be found. I am sorry. What shall we do now?”
Another silence.

“He was right. We usually take the boat out from the river during the up-tide. On Saturday, he was appointed to take it out. But why did he think someone would have taken the boat out onto the share on Friday itself? For sure, I think, it might have been the thought of the up-tide. You have to rely greatly on tides, because at his time of the year the water flow in the river is usually high,” says Sangeeth in his interview with me.

“The boat service was a wonderful tourism possibility, too. Tourists used the boat to explore the river as well as a small island situated between the Ajarakkandy River and the Arabian Sea, a piece of earth floating on the blue water, unique with its possibilities and open to explorations. One could also oar across the juncture where the river meets the sea. And all for an amount equal to nothing.”  Sangeeth added.    

The boat had been moored safely to the shore so that the heavy flow of the river could not take it away along with it. The question was how it disappeared. To find that out they needed to find the boat or at least the remains of it.

There was no search party, since the people’s committee who was in a financially depleted stage. So they could not spend any more money on another mission.

“We had a fund for the renovation of the boat; I mean its annual maintenance. We could have used that money to find it. They asked me to use it. But I said no. I had a feeling that we would find the boat safely.” Sangeeth said.

Wednesday morning dawned with a phone call to Sangeeth. That was the same man, the maintenance worker who rang him up the previous day.

“We found the boat! It is near Dharmadam now; on the beach. It almost reached the sea by the heavy flow in the river. I heard that somebody had found it near the bridge and tried to moor it there, but it again was washed away by the current.”

So the boat was now on the beach, and may be safe, though he did not say anything more. Sangeeth and the oarsman of the boat reached Dharmadam. There he noticed, on the pristine white sand, rested like a grey, dead whale, their boat.

After a close scrutiny they realized that the boat is let loose manually from the jetty. They found the rope attached with the boat’s bow, slit, with its knot with the fastening rope intact, which was used to moor the boat to the shore, giving ample evidences to prove Sangeeth’s worst fear materializing.

“They had been there, in it—the sand exploiters. For sure”—Sangeeth said.

The boat was almost ruined. “It was a better idea, practically, to leave it there than to pay another amount to bring it back to Muzhappilangad kadavu, to the jetty. But if we brought the boat back, it would be a reply to those who committed this sort of an anti-social activity. It was a commitment to the people of Muzhappilangad, who paid money for establishing the boat service from the meager income they get. And so we brought it back, with the help of a fishing boat.”—Sangeeth said.

Sangeeth had one final request, too. “We want the world to know this story; this story of pride, of hardships to keep the tradition alive for the younger generation to carry forward, of commitment to people and of an endless struggle. We cannot use that boat anymore. It is all ruined. We need to buy a new one. And for that we request support and donations from all over the world.”

For more details on visits to Dharmadam, Muzhappilangad, and to this land of proud struggle, contact:

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Anya said...

A true but also a touching story !!

Have a wonderful weekend

Anu Lal said...

Thanks Anya. Blessings.

Writing Buddha said...

beautiful example for many..

Anu Lal said...

You are right