A bridge that has changed many lives

A bridge that has changed many lives

Till a suspension bridge was built in the Nittur region of Shimoga district, boatman Srinivasa was indispensable to people in the region. Today, the bridge has changed people’s lives and the boatman has had to reinvent himself.

Twenty five years ago, I visited Dharemane from Nittur in Shimoga district’s Hosanagara taluk. It was an attempt to understand the problems of those who were affected by the dam that was built across the Sharavathi.

I had set out with my friend to the region. It was late in the night as we arrived at Kudurekalu, after walking for three miles from Nittur. Staring at the vast expanse of water, I was worried if we had to cross the water by foot and reach hamlets on the other side.

Even as I was dismayed by the prospect, I heard my friend shout out across the waters, and get a response from the other side. In half an hour’s time came a boatman, asking us where we had to be ferried to.

This boatman was Srinivasa, aka, Donisheena for people in the region.. Even as he ferried us across, he engaged us in a conversation about his life, and the plight of the people in this region.

Donisheena’s job was to ferry students from hamlets such as Dharemane, Hebbige, Baruve, Jimale, Talagodu and Hadekai to schools and colleges on the other side. Sheena was following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Was the money he earned enough for his livelihood? Sheena innocently said it was enough for a peaceful life.

Sheena was given quantities of areca or paddy by different families in the surrounding villages. He would go from door to door and collect what was given to him.  The families valued Sheena, because they knew their children were safe in his hands. Srinivasa was a crucial part of their lives. Today, the situation is vastly different.

You can see Girish Bharadwaj’s bridge that stands from one end to the other. Today, it is hardly a hassle to cross the waters from Nittur and reach Bailige, Baruve, and Dharemane. Children are no longer faced with the prospect of waiting for a boat to ferry them across the water. But, Donisheena’s life has turned upside down. He no longer has people waiting for him to ferry them across. In his eagerness to continue with his family tradition, he had turned boatman and had paid no attention to farming.

There have been promises of a Rs 25,000-compensation package, but that is yet to reach him. And yet, Srinivasa has not given up. He has two boats and has decided to ferry any tourist interested in enjoying the scenic beauty of the surroundings, across the water.
The region is indeed a scenic spot.

There are beautiful spots around, in the form of Kodachadri hills, Ennehole and Hidlumane waterfalls. Srinivasa is all set to show any interested tourist around the place. However, he is unsure about his income and wonders if it will sustain his livelihood.

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