Over backwaters and through local markets: Commuting in Chertala

Words and visuals: Anne Milan


Feeling at home needs familiarity.
Familiarity is thrown under the bus when you are in a new place. Case in point: Kerala, the land I should call home.

As a fourth year architecture student I decided quite impulsively, that I would do my 9-month-long internship in Chertala (or Shertally), a town in Allapuzha, Kerala.

Nine months is a long time.

The only times I had visited Chertala before was during summer breaks. I'd be shuttled back and forth by my parents from the paternal and maternal homes. This meant no other side of the place was ever revealed to me.

Except now. In these 9 months, I figured out the daily commute from my house to work. With no buses plying after 7pm, and my negligible knowledge of Malayam, it'd been the most harrowing task. 

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At the mini bus stand...


...with some help from relatives and strangers alike, I learned to rely on the (mostly) punctual buses. Their names were Betsy, Angel, Eagles. The buses would have a ‘kili’ (or conductor) and a more-often-than-not crazy bus driver.

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The bus would halt...

at this beautiful place.

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Here are some relics


and souvenirs from these everyday trips.

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The commute to my office, which was about 13 km in total, would cost me Rs. 7. After a bit of walk through the crowded Chertala main market, I would reach work.

Every day was an adventure.

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Knowing the exact time the bus would cross a particular bridge, or when it would make a turn, would make me happy.

Having a routine at an unfamiliar place made me comfortable.  

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Routine II

Shifting my place of residence to Kochi posed a new challenge. Private buses were not the answer anymore. I needed to get on a SUPER FAST going towards Trivandrum from the Vytilla Mobility Hub.

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The KSRTC buses were designated as follows: Ordinary, Limited Stop Ordinary, Fast Passenger, Limited stop Fast Passenger, Super Fast, and Super Express as per the number of stops they made.

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My routine now included a long walk till the famous Manorama Junction (of the Malayam Manorama publication fame), board a bus from which the kili screamed ‘Vytilla-Vytilla-Vytilla!’ and then a super-faster-than-the wind.

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By the time I reached the humble Manorama Kavala after an hour and half, I would be tired.

This was every day. The beautiful landscapes almost made up for it. Almost. 

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Once, my bus zoomed past me as I was still trying to match the Malayalam script on the sign-board on the bus, with the script which said ‘Ernakulum’ on a piece of paper my colleagues had kindly written down for my reference. Another time, I was on the bus to Trivandrum, the opposite direction to where I was headed. I got off sheepish—in the middle of the highway—and slightly nervous. It was already dark.


Mastering the commute was an achievement for me. I felt like a grown up, and I grew confident enough to wander around. People seemed less strange and the places less scary. 

Did Kerala finally feel like home? Maybe. Maybe not.


Anne Milan, an architect turned illustrator, explores colour, form, and emotions through her art. She draws inspiration from nature, music, and words to form unexpected creations that may give you the heeby - jeebies or take you to a place you once dreamt about. 
See more of her work here.