October 2, 2023

Between the beach and the backwaters – 2

Read earlier post : Cherai backwaters

Cherai evening

I walk out of the resort I am staying in, cross the narrow road and get to the beach at just after five in the evening. I see different sets of people in front of me there. The locals, in their saris, the colors as deep as the evening sky and dhotis that were sparkling white once long ago, now a faded muddy tone. Locals from Cochin, here for the evening, for the warm waters, the neat stretch of sand, the short promenade that the Kerala government is proud of. Then the outsiders. The two families from somewhere up North, three children between them, the men friends, both women in pink salwar kameez and pale pink lipstick. Aside : why do Indians dress up so much to go to the beach? Sitting flat in the waters fully dressed, dupattas hiding their wet clothes as they come out of the water and get together as separate families drying themselves and their own children. Turns out I had got the pairing wrong – I briefly wonder about wife swapping reports that I read about regularly in the glossies and then dismiss that thought. Idle mind and all that.

I then turn my attention to the other outsiders. The “foreigners”. In their bikinis and briefs, smearing and resmearing gooey tan lotion all over themselves, already turning a bright shade of pink in parts where the sun has caught them. No doubt happy with the thought of returning home, possessors of enviable tans. I try to remember if I have my sun protection anti-tan cream on as I watch the local locals, men of all ages in colorful lungis, in groups of two and three, sitting on the rocks, watching the women. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Gape.


The sun is about to set and the sky changes color every minute, the waters reflecting those. Flecks of purple on the waves between the bright oranges and reds of the sun falling on the water. As if a hidden hand has emptied a huge bottle of blue ink over the fluid canvas.


Cherai morning

Cherai beach at 6 in the morning… the sky still sleepy, as bleary-eyed as I am, the sun fully awake a minute and going back to sleep between the cloud covers the next. The only souls out there are the fishermen already well into the sea for their early morning catch. The waves crashing half-heartedly against the shore as if to say see, I am just expected to do this but my heart is not really in this. The sea otherwise so perfectly still that I am able to see the reflections of the fishing boats on the water, something I had never expected to see on a beach.

I keep walking along the shore watching the fishermen at work, a few working alone… like this one. Just the man and his net. He walks a few meters int the sea and throws his net, waits for a minute and hauls in his catch. He empties his net into the round vessel he has with him, and then walks on ahead to another place down the shore to repeat the routine. Effortless, the whole exercise seems to the innocent eye.

no luck so far

Some others are not so lucky. These two fishermen wade in rather late into the sea, when the other boats are almost on their way back to shore. They row in a bit and then come back to shore, standing near the boat and staring with despair at the water. The water level is rising and there is no point in going into the sea then, says one of them to me. I watch them as they heave the boat on their shoulders and turn it round and round till they manage to place it on the sand at a safe distance from the water.




Apart from the fishermen, the beach is empty. No early morning walkers, no hawkers, no gawkers. I keep staring into the sea, and then turn around… the sun has risen over the backwaters and is making its way up into the sky. I start walking back to my room from where I can see the backwaters come to life, reflecting the early morning mild orange rays of the sun. Between the beach and the backwaters, Cherai is the perfect place to unwind and let your mind switch off from the real world. My advice is, go find Cherai before the tour groups do, and it turns into yet another Goa.

7 thoughts on “Between the beach and the backwaters – 2

  1. Raghu Rai captured beautifully the Indian atmosphere at the beach, your first paragraph reminded me of his pictures at his exhibition ‘Earthscapes’.

  2. The reason we dress up, is cos, I think the beach is not just a relaxing place, it is a place “to go to”, a major outing. Atleast it was, when I was young…now with more options, perhaps thats changing.

  3. Anil, thank you! really appreciate it…

    Apu, that was a rhetorical question, actually. but I know what you mean… an “outing” just as any other.

  4. Fantastic pics. Esp the B&W ones. I am going to Kerala next week and though we do not have enough time there, I am using your blog archives as the Bible.

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