Living in Kerala, as children, we always had a love-hate relationship with June when schools would reopen after a two month-long leisurely summer vacation. And much to everyone’s content, June always brought along with it the divine drops of euphoria. There were heavenly pleasures like waking up to the world of overflowing rivulets and lush green paddy fields soaked in the overnight downpour.
To relive all those memories, we planned a short trip to Kumarakom backwaters in Kerala. The Vembanad Lake, one of the largest fresh water lakes in the state, surrounded with lush greenery, with an added attraction of a bird sanctuary housing exotic species of birds, offers an endless expanse of picturesque beauty. However, our intention was to simply enjoy the symphony of rain on the languorous backwaters.
From Kottayam, after a cup of freshly brewed steaming coffee in the morning, we resumed our journey through a 16-kilometre narrow road to Kumarakom. Within half-an-hour, we reached the lakeside where a long array of houseboats were awaiting visitors. The boom in the backwater tourism in the area, which has been marked as a special tourism zone by the government, has eventually pushed the land value up, prompting villagers to sell their property for fancy prices. Cashing in on the trend, most of them, who were farmers, started houseboat and homestay services. Sisupalan, whom we met there, was one among them, and offers a well-furnished luxury houseboat service for prices ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 for 12 hours. A two-hour trip in a houseboat through the pristine backwaters will cost you at least Rs 2,000. Speed boats, raw boats and country boats are also available for exploring the lake’s baffling beauty.
We settled for an air-conditioned boat built in traditional Kerala nalukettu style. Before starting the journey, the driver gave us an overview of the places to be covered. On the way, he enlightened us about the nearby Ayemenam village, which shot to fame after it was fictionalised in the Booker Prize winning The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.As we passed through, we could spot several luxury resorts lined up on the shores of the lake that is aesthetically encircled by coconut palms and mangroves. As we cruised along the backwaters, we had a glimpse of its charming rustic life. We then visited the local bird sanctuary. Spread across 14 acres, it is home to rare migratory birds and is a must-visit. We also had a first-hand experience of fishing in canals. My joy knew no bounds as I managed to learn the nuances of steering the huge boat. These boats were earlier used to transport rice and spices between Kuttanadu and Cochin. A standard house boat, which could be about 100-feet-long, can ferry as many goods as three big lorries.
All the activity had given us a huge appetite and as the slow-moving boat passed through various islands, including Pathiramanal, where people can treat themselves to the Kerala special sweet toddy, and Thanneermukkam bund, we gorged on some lip-smacking karimeen (pearl spot) fry and tapioca.
Lulled by the waves into a state of tranquillity, we returned to the boarding point as darkness crept in, despair writ large on the face of my companion as we had missed the spectacular sunset. However, rain poured out all its splendour on God’s own country, reassuring its enviable bond with this land.
An article published in Deccan Herald.