May 19, 2024

God’s own greens and blues

It all started on our way from Munnar to Alleppy (variously called Alapuzah, Applesauce and whasisname by people at different times) when we had to take the ferry, car and driver and all, because of a road closed for repairs. When our car driver, who so far had displayed all signs of being a normal sane human being, suddenly started pointing to something in the air and jumping wildly screaming “bad bad”. Had the man suddenly found religion? Or discovered his hidden morality meter? Or was he merely passing mild judgment on something he found unpleasant? Actually, none of the above – he had spotted a rare water bird and was pointing it out to us. Bad, bird, get it?

We knew then it was going to be a great trip… And great it was. Relaxing kind of great, if you know what I mean. So we got off the car at Alleppy and got into the houseboat, matching smile for smile with the boatman and cook who were waiting with fresh coconut water. Sure, the cook’s smile dropped for just a minute when he asked about our lunch and we informed him about our vegetarian status. He pretended to have misunderstood us, and asked, a tad optimistically, it seemed to me, veggiterians, saar? pyoor veggiterians? When we confirmed we were indeed pyoor, very pyoor, he went away shaking his head and mumbling under his breath about having to return the chicken to the shop and drop back the fish into the rivers. or whatever…

In any case, brave fellow that he was, he quickly erased that appalled look from his face and we were on our way. The boatman and the cook were both extremely cheerful and eager to be friendly. They spoke a lot of broken English and we realized that it was for the benefit of all the foreign tourists that Kerala sees. We stopped for lunch at a small bund near some rice fields, and ate to the accompaniment of the song and dance of the paddy crop in the wind… It was then time to settle down in the front of the boat with a book which I had no intention of reading, and watch life pass by. Or just sit and gaze at the endless greens and blues in front of us, around us…

God's own greens and blues

We snoozed for a while and woke up refreshed and generally indifferent to the stupid
smiles on each other’s faces. The afternoon sun was milder by then and a mellow contented mood had settled in… We sipped our tea and waved at kids playing in front of their houses, at women buying vegetables from the vendors who took their wares around on small boats and at men returning home after a day’s work, their bright checked lungis folded well above the knee… We waved at other passing houseboats – moony honeymooning couples and maniacally happy foreigners…

On the backwaters of Kerala

And then slowly and magically, in front of our eyes, the waters turned golden… There was complete peace and silence all around. The mild mellow mood turned into a strong alls-well-with-the-world feeling… Indeed at that moment, all was well with the world. Our world. And we hoped this would never end…

Sunset on the backwaters

The sun quickly set on us and the boatman skillfully manouvered the boat to the shore where he anchored it for the night. Four or five other boats were anchored close to us, and we discovered that one house there on the banks provided electricity for the generator to run lights on all the boats. Soon darkness fell, the mosquitos took over and we gave up any pretence of playing Scrabble… And then time for dinner. My husband took one look at the food, paled for a brief moment at the sight of all that boiled rice (memories of stomach cramps following an injudicious over consumption of boiled rice at lunch time still fresh in his mind) and then rushed into attack like the brave warrior that he is… And then time for sleep…

It is a wonderful experience sleeping in a houseboat, feeling the boat rocking gently through the night, the waters moving gently below you, the breeze through the open window, the sudden splash splash as a late night traveler made his way home on his small canoe…

We were up early the next morning and urging our boatman to leave; we finished our breakfast of puttu and Kerala bananas with impatience and started on our way to Kumarakom. Houseboat rides usually begin with Alleppy and end there (or wherever else they started from), but we had arranged for the boat to drop us at the Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom where we were to stay for a day. We glided slowly out of the narrow Alleppy backwaters stretch and suddenly in front of us, Vembanad stretched out like a minor placid sea.

Vembanad lake in kerala

An hour on this lake and we were at Coconut Lagoon. There is much to be said for Coconut Lagoon which is right at the end of the Vembanad stretch and boasts (very discreetly, of course) of its presence on the top ten heritage hotels of the world list. The old houses from all over Kerala that they have dismantled and carefully assembled (mantled?) them back within the resort, the super peaceful sunset cruise on the lake, the “cultural programme” for the unsuspecting foreign tourists at night, the array of delicious food at the restaurant (yes, vegetarian food), the strategically placed hammocks by the waters… But what I enjoyed above all was the early morning excursion into the small bird sanctuary right next to Coconut Lagoon… Ah, bad-spotting has been never so much fun…

7 thoughts on “God’s own greens and blues

  1. Have been literally moving between all the 3 blogs, not sure which one to stick to!

    Excellent collection and awesome effort.
    You just added another Blog fan to your list! Great Show!

  2. You should have tried out canoeing either in midnight or early morning in the backwaters. They are awesome…….

  3. puru, thanks. saw your at my other blogs too 🙂
    rahul, thanks…
    baejaar, long time… canoeing? I never thought of it… did you try it? maybe next time I am in kerala!

  4. S, that was quick! yes, I survived Kerala rice. but only barely. read again the bit about the stomach cramps 🙂

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