Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kerala backwaters, ferries and a wedding

As one wanders around Kerala, the sight of the multi-coloured bananas presents an attractive sight. It's an excellent source of sustenance, as well. Each colour has a distinct taste. A couple of these keep you going for an hour or two. My favourite was the red banana (approx Rs 8 each). 

Kerala State Transport Corporation buses, also red in colour, zip along the narrow, crowded highways. The population density and the vehicle density are quite high in most areas of Kerala. The conductor pulls a long piece of string and the bus screeches to a halt somewhere in the vicinity of the bus stop.

One of the buses I traveled in had a shattered pane of glass at the back. A triangular piece suddenly gave way. I was sitting on the back seat, and had to move in a hurry, without any harm done.

The reason for my visit to Kerala were my teaching assignments as Visiting Faculty at a B-School at Pallipuram, located mid way between Trivandrum and Varkala. Early mornings were a gorgeous sight. I used to make my way to the academic block well ahead of class start time, when the cleaning staff were busy. It was a good time to soak in the peaceful sight of the rolling hills and greenery.

Evenings were extremely peaceful, as well. Some of the sunsets painted a thousand pastel shades on the sky that was the canvas.

To add to my experiences, one of my students was getting married. The wedding ceremony was a not-to-be-missed occasion. Dressed in a silk shirt that had been thoughtfully packed by the Memsahib, I thought I was suitably dressed. One of the students gave me a ride in his car. On a scale of 1 to 10, my dress score was at about #7, some of the girls were at #10, while some of the boys were at #1, dressed in faded jeans and even more faded t-shirts. The cool look, I thought. The total number of guests was close to 1,500. Not unusual. We reached early and settled in.

The scene was like the set of a film shoot. A crane carrying a movie camera swiveled all over the hall. The pictures were beamed on TVs placed all over, and outside, the hall. I was amazed at the dexterity of the crane operator who also doubled as the camera operator. Lots of practice, I guess. Not a single wedding guest was beheaded!

Lunch was, predictably, a multi-course meal. Motto of the day: never say no to anything. So I sampled everything, including three varieties of 'payasam', the desert.

The traditional pink coloured water was served. The herb is reputed to aid digestion. I would surely need the blessings of the digestive herb after the rare mega meal.

The village of Veli lies barely a few kilometres from the wedding hall. This is a pretty area that has both backwaters and the sea to offer. 

The State Government has developed Veli as a tourist spot, with parks, rides, food stalls, all part of the usual tourist attractions.

Families large and small, and groups of school children by the bus load seem to descend on Veli everyday. 

Boats laden with tourists go up and down the backwaters towards the sea and back inland again. 

The visitors, in return, demonstrate their gratitude to Mother Nature by leaving their muck behind. 

Axiom #1 of Indian Tourism seems to be well followed in Veli, yes, even in Kerala: Wherever thou find loads of domestic tourists, there shall thou find litter.

I keep wondering when I see sad sights such as these, when will Indians grow up to be sensitive enough to care for their fellow human beings, the environment, their lovely country with ancient monuments and natural beauty? Will Indians ever reach this state? Ever? 

The post-monsoon season along India's west coast feels like the dawn of a new day. Blue seas with non-stop wisps of white that crown the non-stop waves, protected by spotless skies painted an even deeper shade of blue. 

Fishing boats have been repaired and painted, waiting for their trips to begin once again.

Engines and propellers today power almost all fishing boats, which not too long ago used to be powered by fishermen and their collective will. Many of the engines are still wrapped up in sheets of protective plastic. 

Heading north, I reached a point beyond which I could not go. A board nearby stated "Muthala Pozhi Harbour". A bridge was being constructed across the pretty backwaters towards my right. The coconut trees stood quietly as witnesses.

There appeared to be a human made jetty on my left, leading into the sea. The sea was a terrific dark blue.

Trucks came by, carrying granite rocks which were being put in place by ever busy crawler loaders. 

The jetty area where the crawler loader was working was a convenient vantage point to tarry a while and admire the splashing of the white topped waves on the rocks. 

Looking back, the little bay alongside was a pretty combination of sights: relentless series of waves, beach, a few fishermen and trees in the background. 

I found myself circumnavigating the Kadinamkulam Lake. A high point on the road allowed me a 270 degree view around me. Sunshine, calm blue-green waters and the ever present coconut trees. 

My exploratory trip was first north-west to the Muthala Pozhi Harbour, and after I could not go any further, I tracked back south-east along the Kadinamkulam Lake, and again back up north-west along the lake. 

The backwaters are an incredible sight. God's Own Country, they say, for good reason. The atmosphere all around the Kadinamkulam Lake seemed to embody the words 'calm' and 'peace'. Only the electricity transmission wires betrayed the signs of civilization.

Not a tourist was in sight. There were not too many locals, either. Just the blue-green backwaters with little ripples of waves running around.

The area near the Murukkumpuzha Railway Station east of the Lake was rather busy, with large stores, small stores, even smaller stores (selling red, yellow and green bananas!), busy streets, buses, cars, two-wheelers and pedestrians. However, the vicinity of the Lake was once again deserted but for a boatload of people far away. I wondered what they were doing out there. Thinking about the past, maybe? The Lake used to be a lifeline for passengers and commerce in the decades gone by. Times have changed. Today, it is unlikely that any family in Kerala does not have a family member working overseas. This transition has been a tremendous source of inflow of wealth over the past thirty years or so. Consequently, not many citizens feel the need to continue with traditional ways of life. 

Folks have bought cycles, motorcycles, scooters and cars. Many folks use public transport. The once busy lake is virtually unused today, ironically symbolized by the tired and worn looking boat that seems to have been abandoned several years ago.

The Kadinamkulam pier appears to have been painted not too long ago, a cheerful, bright blue colour, all set for for passengers to arrive. 

The wait will be endless, forlorn and forgotten. No passengers will arrive. For the Kadinamkulam Ferry plies no more. 

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1 comment:

  1. Very informative article. Thanks for sharing this details. Also I want you to share more information related with this article. Can you update in your website?
    Kerala backwaters


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