Editor's note: Backstory is Onmanorama's special year-ender video series. Here, our reporters recall their memorable experiences in 2019. Watch all videos here.
A year after the 2018 floods we had visited the house of Sooraj in Idukki.
Sooraj is the boy in the iconic photograph that shows a daring NDRF personnel dashing across the Cheruthoni bridge with a child held close to his chest as a rampaging Cheruthoni river threatens to swallow the bridge any moment. Running behind them in the picture, as if in a daze, is the boy's father, Vijayaraj.
We wanted to meet the boy, see how he had fared in the last year, and also his father.
At the house, some 200 metres from the bridge, we met the boy and his mother Manju. It was morning. The boy was running around the small courtyard refusing to get into his school uniform. The mother, though panting from the effort to get her son ready for school, seemed glad we came all the way from Thiruvananthapuram to enquire about her child.
Vijayaraj, a construction worker, was not at home. He had left for work early. We were disappointed as our plan was to get a happy picture of Vijayaraj walking on the Cheruthoni bridge carrying his son. We thought it would be a sunny counterpoint to the end-of-the-world gloom of the 2018 photograph.
We announced our plan to Manju like we were introducing her to something novel. Our tone might have even suggested that we were about to do her family a favour. Though still smiling graciously, Manju did not seem enthusiastic about our plan. She gave us her husband's number and asked us to call him.
Vijayaraj did not pick up the phone but he soon called us back. We told him we were from manoramaonline. He was polite. But the moment we proposed our plan, his tone darkened. “I am not interested,” he said.
Like a spurned salesman we hesitatingly told him the picture will look good. “Yes, I know. Four local newspapers had already come and asked me to walk on the bridge with my child. We did as they told us and we have seen all those pictures. Even my little one is bored. Call me when you have a better idea,” he said.
(This story was first published on December 18, 2019.)