Memories of a “thodu”

Of a childhood around a stream from the Manimala River in Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sushmitta Renganathan

Conceptual representation based on data from Google Earth, of a small segment of the Manimala River flowing through Kottayam.

What must it be like to live in a place where our lives don’t seem too far removed from the beauty of nature? Where visiting a lake or a stream, and playing on its shores are not restricted to an occasional weekend trip, but is an after-school routine?

Years ago, I had found a friend in Haritha Balakrishnan, a singer and software engineer, during a visit to Kochi from my hometown, Chennai. On her laptop, I had come across a video of herself and her childhood friends playing on the banks of a stream, near her home in the outskirts of Kottayam; strutting along the shallow banks, pretending that it was a ramp. It seemed that all they had to do was, step out of their houses, and walk a small distance, to make this pure and serene pocket of nature theirs for a few hours daily. But these few hours, I was told, defined large parts of their memories of home. 

While she casually scrolled past it, the image of this evidently sustainable symbiosis of nature and life, never left my mind.

So, what must it really feel like to have nature commemorate moments of life and make even the ordinary parts seem extraordinary? It shouldn’t take much to respect it, and in return experience its kindness in severalfold, should it?

Haritha Balakrishnan’s narration of her memories around the stream near her home in Kottayam, inspires more such questions:

The beautiful village Haritha talks about is Vizhikkathodu, located in the outskirts of Kottayam, in Kerala. The thodu that is so precious to her, branches from the 91 Km long Manimala River; an important water way of Central Travancore.The river originates in the Muthavara Hills in the district of Idukki, and flows through Kottayam and Pathanamthitta, before it empties itself into the Vembanad Lake in the village of Kainakary in Alappuzha. In Kottayam, the Manimala river extends from Vaipur to Mundakayam. 

Course of the Manimala River in Kerala

Modern-day India continues to be home to hundreds of such rivers, lakes, and innumerable ponds and other smaller waterbodies; and yet, only some like Haritha, might have had memorable experiences around waterbodies on a daily basis, and may even continue to have them; while some others might have to watch these waterbodies being taken over by encroachment, draught, etc., and be faced with the choice of either fighting to protect them or simply hoping for a miracle. For the rest, these stories on life around waterbodies might seem as distant as a fairytale. Irrespective, we all yearn for a piece of it.

We welcome you to share your experiences around waterbodies and your aspirations for the forgotten waterbodies near you! Please write to

Published by Sushmitta Renganathan

I am an Architect and Urban Designer, passionate about playing my part in conserving the beautiful rarities in our society. I care about the diversity, environment, conservation of arts and culture, gender equality, and intercultural dialogue. My passion for designing, writing, and photography, help me to assert myself on the issues I have the privilege to witness and understand.

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