It was an unusual yet emotional reunion on the banks of the Banasura Sagar Dam in Wayanad district on Sunday evening. More than a thousand families that once belonged to Thariyod village got together 32 years after being evicted by the government for the construction of the Banasura Sagar Dam, which was built across the Karamanathodu tributary of the Kabani River.
The last set of families left the village in 1985, going on to settle in different parts of Kerala. But the first reunion in 32 years on Sunday left the older generation overwhelmed, as they greeted each other with tears in their eyes.
â€śWe would like to call it historical. We were born and brought up here in Thariyod. We had our village here, our school, our temples, mosque, church, post office and many more. Now itâ€™s all under water. It remained a painful memory for us,â€ť says Mohanan, who was 20 years old when he was evicted from the village.
Mohanan together with his friends KN Gopinathan, Basheer, Unnikrishnan, Muhammed Ali and NP Naushad decided to get in touch with their old neighbours and organise a reunion to relive their past. Over three years, the old friends went about collecting the contacts and getting in touch with the villagers.
To their surprise, around 2000 people turned up on Sunday, sharing stories of their lives and the village that was once home. For those like 90-year-old Appunni, Padmavathy (75), Alice, Rajamma and many other septuagenarians and octogenarians, returning to their native place was an emotional homecoming. There were hugs and tears all around, as long lost friends greeted each other.
The Thariyod government school was chosen as the venue for the reunion. And while the school had to be shifted to make way for the dam, it was reconstructed to look like the original.
â€śMost of them reached at 9am. We had a meeting inaugurated by our MLA CK Saseendran. Later we had a felicitation programme in which we honoured the older generation who gathered. People spent time catching up and reminiscing about the past. The way they express their love was touching,â€ť Mohanan said.
He also observed that most people who came for the reunion came with their entire family, despite the younger generation not knowing each other. â€śWe had a chance to go back to our roots,â€ť he said.
Banasura Sagar is the largest earthen dam in India and the second largest in Asia. The project was launched in 1979 and was completed by late 1980s. The eviction of the villages was, however, far from easy, with a number of agitations over compensation.
â€śDespite a lot of promises, all of us were evicted with very little compensation. With that meagre amount, people left to settle down in different places. Some went to Palakkad, some to Kasaragod and some stayed back in Wayanad itself,â€ť Mohanan said.
But at the end of their reunion, the pain of separation was once again upon the old friends and neighbours. â€śNobody wanted to go back after meeting their old friends. They all took a resolution to meet whenever possible before departing from here,â€ť he added.
Edited by Anna Isaac