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|by Gopal Lahiri|
Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream
We reached Kumarakom in the late afternoon and after the traditional welcome at the hotel, we rushed towards the jetty by a battery car to have a boat ride on the Vembanad Lake. The excitement was palpable even after a nearly two hour flight from Mumbai to Kochi and further two hour exhausting road journey from Kochi to Kumarakum.
Finally we could reach there in time to jump on the boat and had a great fun in our boat (partially opened roof) ride with songs and clicking of numerous photographs. The sunset over the lake was breath taking.
The Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater in Kerala, was actually a vast sheet of quiet water dotted by a few houseboats where some people prefer to stay. The lake, we were told, was habitat for many marine as well freshwater fishes, notably Karimeen fish and shrimps. The boat ride was followed by local tea (Chaya Kada) with tasty vada and pokoras on the lawns of the hotel to the tune of slow disappearance of the pinkish gold sun over the backwater.
Our visit to the bird sanctuary (14 acres green expanse) on the next day, at the early morning was a bit let down in the context of bird-watching. In fact you need sturdy legs to walk on the narrow thorny and bushy uneven paths that lead to the watch tower. We changed the routine plan of walking and hired a country boat to have a glimpse of the Village green.
Kumarakom is a place that begs to be photographed. As we cruised on the country boat, the Village scene was unfolded in its various forms to us. The interspersed water ways and the interlocking canals were the backbone of the surrounding large cultivated lands.
It would be a great challenge, not to reach your camera to snap a few pictures of the green canopy of hibiscus plants leaning partially over the canal , the sprawling mangroves, kingfishers spotting the fish, coconut groves, beautiful fishing boats and spreading fishing nets and the colourful house boats lined up in rows over the canals and the lagoon. We had seen a few birds flying high in the cloudy sky as well.
We lodged in the first floor of the Historic Baker House, (taken over by Taj group later on and renovated) named after a European Missionary who lived here and it extended to four generations. Arundhuti Roy in her novel, God of Small things mentioned this house as ‘History House’. Our room on the first floor was spacious and had a fabulous balcony overlooking the lagoon and the bird sanctuary.
In the two evenings we spent at the hotel, temperatures plummet a fraction the moment the sun vanished behind the coconut trees. Lagoon Diya lighting bordering the cottages, by the local ladies was a joy to watch. The Instrumental Carnatic music and the classical dances on the lagoon front was the real treat of the evening. Finally, in the restaurant in the Baker House, illuminated by candlelight, our ever-busy cook would serve up traditional delicious Kerala dishes, Appam, chicken stews, spicey sauce that cut through the chill and Karimeen fish curry.
During our stay, we had a brief visit to Alleppey or Alappuzha which Lord Curzon on seeing the nature’s bounties described it as the Venice of the East. The town in fact was a bit congested. The lake side of the city was dotted with house boats and country boats cruising on the canals and the backwater, lagoon and river. The famous Nehru Boat Race is always a memorable event here in every year.
The Laccadeep sea beach was quiet, the light house was one of its kinds in this part and the view was awesome. We ran around, glimpsed a fishing boat arranging colourful nets and had a few clicks on the shore.
When we got up and started walking, I apprehended that my iPhone, with which I had taken more than 200 photos, had disappeared, either into the sand or into someone’s hand. Ultimately I could find it in my pocket covered in a cloth with seashells. The historic India Coffee house at the beach road was a quiet place but I could not sip a coffee as we had to rush to catch up the evening boat cruise at Kumarakum.
Another visit on the next day by country boat to have a feel of the villages was worth-mentioning. The canals were snaking through the villages. We saw people of all walks of life on the narrow road along the banks. Suresh, our boatman lamented pointing at the cluster of children walking on the road, ‘Sir, these children have to walk daily 10kms to reach their schools and colleges are located so far off’’.
We had a stop in between and Suresh took us to the local village and the surrounding green. The village where Arundhuti Roy stayed in early years was shrouded in tropical greenery with coconut trees and the stretches of unending paddy fields. We were told that Kuttanadu, the rice bowl of Kerala was not very far.
We could not visit Kottyam the temple town but had a good view of the Kumarakom town.
Kumarakum does not tell you where to stay, sleep, walk or roam, but it urges you to immerse in the beauty of the landscape, the rivers, canals, lagoon, the flowers and birds, the country boats, houseboats, and over and above the beautiful people. Love to ring like a poet at the end-
Hang in ethereal light below the moon
Dusking the border of the clear lagoon.
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08/23/2014 10:52 AM
06/17/2014 22:51 PM