Kalam terms the Train Horn as ‘Divine Music’ while entering the Temple Town from Pamban Bridge

kalam pambanRameswaram:  As he threw open the month-long celebration of Pamban railway bridge on Tuesday that will be completing 100 years on February 24, former President Abdul Kalam recalled the fond memories the cantilever bridge had brought in his life.

Kalam, who travelled to Pamban railway station by a special train from Mandapam termed the sound of the train entering the bridge, as divine music. He hoped that the divine music lasts longer and turned his brief journey on the train into a poem, which he later read it out to the villagers and asking them to recite after him.

Kalam, who hails from Rameswaram said that he used to travel on the bridge regularly right from his childhood days, as it was the only connectivity between the island and the mainland. Constructed in 1914 to improve trade and tourism with Ceylon, the bridge contributed to the livelihood and improvement of the people in Rameswaram island to a great deal and he recalled how the newspapers he distributed in his schools days came through the trains.

“The bridge has become part and parcel of everyone’s life in this island,” he said. He also appreciated the Southern Railway for maintaining the bridge very well in spite of it being surrounded by a highly-corrosive environment. During a cyclone in 1964, 124 spans of the bridge were washed away by tidal waves leaving it with just 19 pre-stressed concrete girders and the Scherzer span. E Sreedharan, the then executive engineer of railways restored the bridge within 67 days. When a barge rammed against it last year, the railways again had a daunting task and with the support of the local people managed to restore it in seven days.

“The bridge was instrumental in connecting lakhs of people with the island. I wish that the bridge should last long and the divine music of the train while crossing it continue forever connecting people across the region,” Kalam said.

Y S Rajan, professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) who graced the occasion said that the bridge means connecting people.

M H Jawahirullah, Ramanathapuram MLA shared an interesting piece of information associated with the bridge. “Many Muslim households around Pamban name their girl children a ‘White’ prefix. One such common name is Whitebeevi. This is done in honour of the wife of British official, Mr White who was the project officer during the construction of the Pamban bridge. Both of them were involved in many humanitarian works in the region as the couple lived in the locality during that period,” he said.

Rakesh Misra, general manager of Southern Railway said the Pamban Bridge is an engineering marvel and the pride of the zone.

For the people of Pamban panchayat, the celebration was their own as the entire village turned out for the function. In fact they had insisted earlier with the railway authorities about hosting the event in Pamban against the earlier schedule of Mandapam. “We are thankful that the railway authorities considered our request to host the event in Pamban and we believe that the closing ceremony next month would also be held here,” one of the villagers said. Ramanathapuram MP, J K Ritheesh, Madurai divisional railway manager, A K Rastogi and other railway officials also took part in the event.