For 15-year-old Midhun, who has never travelled on a public bus, it’s an unbelievably exciting experience to be riding in his wheelchair on Kochi’s spanking new Metro train.
But 12-year-old Arun is so frightened by the novel experience of a train riding up above the city that he begins crying. It’s only thanks to his teacher Anjana, who quietly coaxes and cajoles him, that Arun finally gathers the courage to step into the Metro and enjoy the ride.
While the Metro was formally inaugurated on Friday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its first passenger, Midhun and Arun were just two of the special guests invited for a unique and heartwarming set of journeys called the Sneha Yatra (journey of love).
On Saturday morning, nearly 450 children with physical and cognitive disabilities from 43 special schools, as well as children from orphanages and elderly persons from old age homes along the route – 1,550 people in all – were invited to be the first public passengers on the newly opened Metro. As part of the gesture, the KMRL ran multiple trains from Palarivattom to Aluva from 10am to around 11.30am, to give these special passengers the first experience of the Metro.
Riding along with them on some of the trips were Health Minister KK Shailaja and actor and State Award winner Rejisha Vijayan.
There was plenty of excitement and joy on display, as many children, who had never heard of a Metro got to experience it first-hand. Rahul, a student at the KRIPA Special School in Aluva, for instance, said, ““I did not know what a Metro was till our teacher showed us the picture. I love travelling in it, and I will come again.”
For these special passengers, the Sneha Yatra was doubly exciting because they were the first residents of Kochi to be experiencing the new Metro. As 70-year-old Parvathy Amma said, “Nobody has ever taken us out like this, and we are so happy that they considered us. Our prayers will always be with them.”
What was also heartening for the differently-abled passengers on the train was the ease with which they were able to negotiate their way through it all. As Lalu, a 40-year-old teacher at Kripa Bhavan said, “We have limitations that keep us from travelling on buses or trains. But we are very happy that the metro lets us travel with ease.”
Continuing with its inaugural events, the KMRL is set to offer another set of special journeys on Sunday evening for the labourers who were involved in the construction of the Metro.
The Metro will be thrown up to the general public on Monday morning.