Sandra Babu paid Rs 18 for each round trip on Friday and Saturday
ALAPPUZA: In God’s own country, a marooned schoolgirl’s prayers were answered by a government agency this week when it sent a 70-seater boat on successive days to ferry her from a waterlogged stretch of Alappuzha to Kanjiram in Kottayam district so that she wouldn’t miss her Class 11 exams.
Apart from the crew, Sandra Babu was the lone passenger on the boat on Friday and Saturday as it cut through the scenic waterscape of Kuttanad to reach Kanjiram. On both days, the vessel docked at the jetty there and waited for the 17-year-old, whose parents are daily-wage earners, to finish writing her papers before making the return journey.
“I thought I would miss my exams as I didn’t have the means to reach my school. Out of desperation, I contacted the SWTD (state water transport department) and told them of my plight. They understood my situation and promised to send a boat. I am really proud of SWTD. I don’t know how to share my happiness,” Sandra told TOI.
Hiring a motorised country boat would have cost at least Rs 4,000 for a single trip, an official said. Sandra was charged Rs 18 for each round trip.
Passenger boats haven’t operated in the Kuttanad area, located below sea level and a protected Ramsar Site, since the lockdown began. The water transport department, however, deployed the boat’s full complement of crew — the driver, a srank (navigator), a boat master and two lascars (for assisting the master in mooring) — for Sandra. The boat would pick her up from a jetty close to her home at 11.30am and drop her off in front of SNDP Higher Secondary School by noon. The round trip would end around 4pm.
Shaji V Nair, director of the SWTD, said his team didn’t think twice when Sandra sought help to reach school for her exams. “My daughter is a Plus One student, too. The government as well as our minister extended their support, making this possible.”
In Japan, for years, there used to be just one passenger waiting at the Kyu-Shirataki train station on the island of Hokkaido every day — a high schoolgirl on her way to class. Trains would stop there just to pick up the girl for school and drop her on the way back.