Nedumangad District (Kerala): For 30 years, Uttaman has been ferrying residents of four villages in Nedumangad district, Kerala, across the Vamanapuram river — not for money, or fame, but simply because he knows there's no other way.
In the absence of a bridge, students, teachers, and officegoers across four villages in this district rely solely on Uttaman and his free ride to get across the river to reach the city.
A school teacher, Josy says, "I am a school teacher and I cannot afford to lose classes. If Uttaman and his boat was not here, God knows how we would have carried on with our daily lives."
Uttaman started his ferry service after repeated requests to the government to build a bridge across the river fell on deaf ears. The 67-year-old knows he will have to put his oar down some day, but he's not sure who will take his place.
"This is undoubtedly a very tough job, but then who else will do it. Nobody else is ready to take up the pain. People have to get on with their daily lives. I dont know what will happen after I am gone," says he.
A resident of Nedumangad, Prabhakaran says, "When the election is close, all political parties promise us the bridge as these four panchayats are a huge vote-bank. But after the election nobody even comes here. Now we are planing to take more pro-active steps."
For Uttaman, taking people from one side of the bank to the other is a mission in life. Now while he hopes that somebody else will take up his work after he is gone, the villagers here spreading across four panchayats are gearing up for stricter action.