Published: 14th May 2020
This 22-year-old travelled on a motorcycle from Pune to Alappuzha in 48 hours during the lockdown
Covering 1,300 km in a virtually non-stop 48-hour ride, she reached Alappuzha on May 9. The health department has put her in institutional quarantine at a resort
Swathi Gopan, 22, of Thattarambalam in Mavelikkara went to Pune for a diploma course in personal training seven months ago, at the K-11 School of Fitness Sciences. But the nationwide lockdown saw her getting stuck in the house where she was staying as a paying guest. By the end of April, she was fast running out of money. And the Covid-19 situation in Pune was becoming grim, with hardly any travel option to return to Alappuzha from the city neighbourhood of Lohagaon.
But the relaxations offered by the state and Central governments gave her a break, and the motorcycle belonging to one of her friends provided a ray of hope. She borrowed another person’s helmet and rode away into the evening on May 7, in the company of six other Malayalis returning to the state by road.
Covering 1,300 km in a virtually non-stop 48-hour ride, she reached Alappuzha on May 9. The health department has put her in institutional quarantine at a resort.
“We stopped only to eat and freshen up at a few petrol pumps,” Swathi told TNIE over the phone.“The relaxation in travel norms helped me escape from the city which was turning into a Covid zone.” For the past few weeks, she kept thinking about returning. On May 4, she learnt the government was allowing inter-state travel in private vehicles. And that’s when a few Malayalee boys, Malappuram natives working in Pune, informed her that they were preparing to move to Kerala in a car and a motorcycle.
“The desire to reach home grew and I applied for a pass for inter-state travel,” she said. One of her friends, also a native of Alappuzha, had left his motorcycle in Pune when he returned to Kerala a few weeks before the lockdown announcement.“I decided to ride that motorcycle, and my friend granted permission to use it,” Swathi said.
Worried about a helmet, and as luck would have it, she found that a Tamil Nadu native had kept one in the friend’s room. She packed her things.“The bread and banana in the backpack were the only food. While the vacant road ensured a comfortable ride, around one-and-a-half hours were lost at the Kasaragod checkpost to get clearance.”
Born and brought up in Thattarambalam village, Swathi took the arduous journey emboldened by the courage fostered by her father -- a gymnasium trainer -- and the confidence resulting from her being a black belt in Karate.
“My father brought me up like a boy,” she said. “I started using the gym from my childhood. I also learned karate and acquired a black belt. While doing the civil engineering diploma course at the Carmel Polytechnic in Alappuzha, I received my driving license. The training in martial art has given me confidence.”