In the 80’s, all the buses travelling eastwards announced “Pallathuruthy” as their destination. The destination was displayed on the white board hung in front of the KSRTC buses and these buses passed in front of our house in Alappuzha. There were hardly any private buses towards this destination. Each time I saw a bus, I wondered about the exotic sounding destination. The buses that went towards Pallathuruthy was back in 30 minutes. On the way back, the board would have been reversed and will be displaying “Alappuzha”. So, I knew the destination was not far way from my house. In reality, my house was only 3 kms away. But I never got a chance to see it for a very long time.
On one of those lucky weekends in my teens where the restrictions were eased, I cycled to Pallathuruthy with a friend of mine. Even before we reached our destination, we came across “The White House”. It stood out elegantly in the middle of a paddy field; a shack painted in white. It had the name “The White House” printed in black. The shack stood there, mocking the onlookers and daring them to challenge the name! It was a toddy shop! Initially, we had a good laugh. Once the laughter subsided, we reasoned taking sides with the owner. After all, the shack was painted in white!
Pallathuruthy was a few minutes away from “The White House”. Many small shops locally popular as petti-kada (petti being the malayalam word for box and kada for shop) adorned the two sides of a wooden landing for ferry boats. The buses that passed in front of my house and were parked alongside the small shops. The place was bustling with travelers – either waiting for the ferry or waiting in and outside the bus. Glass jars were arranged in front of these small shops, displaying candies and other sweets. Bottles of sugar syrup was also seen in front of the shop; the sugar for making the thirst quencher - sweet lime water or sweet lime soda. From the rope tied to the top ends of the shop, famous malayalam weeklies were displayed in a manner similar to the hanging clothes for drying! The place was bustling with people and energy!
Pallathuruthy is a river that cuts across the place I visited and Nedumudi. On the opposite side of the river, I found a mirror image of what I found on this side. There were buses parked on the opposite side and numerous small shops. A ferry boat connected these two pieces of land – carrying people, cycles, scooter, motor bikes and other light motor vehicles. The two centers of commerce existed because of the river that divided these two pieces of land. With so many people and activities, the place was very noisy.
Curious about what has become of Pallathuruthy, I visited the place a couple of weeks back. In the 90’s, Pallathuruthy bridge was operational. This comes as a huge relief for people travelling into Alappuzha as they no longer had to wait for the ferry thereby cutting down the overall travelling time. When the ferry service was stopped, there was no static crowd on both sides of the river. As a result, the shop owners deserted the earlier vantage points. The place has gradually ceased to exist.
Near the previous the landing for ferry boats, a couple of new buildings have come up. Various tour operators work out of these buildings. The houseboats are docked here for check-out, cleaning and check-in. There were many houseboats alongside the land on both sides of the bridge. The bridge that was became operational had a gaping hole on it’s sidewalls probably due to a recent accident. The bridge still has not been repaired.
I watched the house boats from the bridge. It was 12 pm – the check-in time for the houseboats. Still, the place was eerily silent.