When the flavours of Kerala had already started gushing inside me and I had become forgetful of worries but unforgetful of life, I reached Alleppey, a gem in God’s Own Country! The roads started running parallel to the backwaters, for which Kerala is known for.
Beyond the backwaters lied the small huts and it didn’t take me much time to start pondering about their unique way of life. Soon enough, we checked in to our abode for the day – our houseboat, crafted beautifully to evoke my thoughts even more. It was a mini home on water – 2 rooms with attached bathrooms, a dining room coupled with a living room and a kitchen. Oh yes! There was a TV too but who would like to watch TV when the scene outside was itself breathtaking!
Making it’s way through the narrow canals, it reached the broadest of backwaters. After some time, it was all about boats and the pristine backwaters dotted with palm trees. Then came the lush green paddy fields on both sides which were refreshed by the retreated rain. There were clear reflections of the small huts built through ages giving a different perspective of life. And then there was occasional appearance of alluring, never-seen before lagoons. One can go for kayaking or canoeing in these mesmerizing lagoons. And how can I forget the prawn-sellers and the motor boats. People do shopping on boats, go to school on boats! It’s indeed the Venice of the East!
The sunshine made everything all the more beautiful and I could feel tranquility had just blessed me. And as my curiosity started getting to the peak, serendipity was bound to happen. I got chatting with the sailor and the next two hours were all about discoveries.
While language can really become a barrier in this part of the country, I was glad that the sailor was fluent in Hindi! Started with the common questions, I discovered he is an accountant by profession! He said, ‘a 9 to 5 job didn’t suit me and I can’t live my life following orders. So I came back to these serene backwaters where my heart always lied, where I am the decision-maker and the crafter of my own life.’ Obviously, that moved me and I discovered people there, are really humble. He said they can take up any odd job irrespective of their education background. There is no show-off in their way of life and he admitted that Kerala goes backward while the rest of the world is going forward. But then their susagade way of life is what real attraction means.
Locals are really responsible as their life is very much surrounded around tourism. The crystal clear water was quite an evidence! Then we started talking about travelling and found a match, rightly so! He said he is driving the boat since 3 years and he absolutely loves it. He makes friends on his way and that has made him reach places past seas and oceans. He suggested me to travel Sri Lanka and the Andamans while I suggested him Ladakh. How can I not!
The conversation got me acquainted with a lot many facts and figures. I was awed by them, surely!
There are over 2500+ registered houseboats in the waters of Allepey but he revealed a secret still. There are unauthorized ones too which float to escape taxes. He also told me about speed boats which run from Cochin to Sri Lanka giving an account how these are operating illegally. He also told me how cheap yet beautiful Sri Lanka is. People in this part of the country are quite serious about life still cheerful. He kept laughing occasionally indicating life is not something to take too seriously.
As we were moving past the backwaters, I kept clicking pictures for the sun was at its glory and the reflections in the water made me reflect more about life. The conversation shifted to food as we got started deciding the menu for dinner. He said how big a fan they are of coconut. Their meals can’t go without coconut and I must try! I very much obliged.
No conversation can end without ranting about politics and corruption. He said their government focuses quite a bit on tourism but no government body is completely efficient. They have their own set of corrupted practices which has made the local life quite difficult.
Also, he told me how expensive life is in Alleppey, rather Kerala. While we could make 2 houses in our part of the country, they could build only one with the same money. Looking at the vast paddy fields, I asked him about the state of farmers there. He said people own their own land and are quite self-dependent. Farmers are not that poor to live a hard life. Business is quite good here and Kerala is not a place to bargain. He said, “Log imandar hai yaha! Jo price hai wahi apko batayenge, Kerala ke kisi bhi nukkar me chale jao aap! (People are honest here. You may go to any part of Kerala, you will find almost the same price of goods!)”.
After some time, it was time for the boat to take some rest. It was parked in a place where we could take a pleasing walk along the villages. Each of the houseboats in Alleppey has it’s own place to be parked for the night. A trip to Alleppey can never get over without a walk along the narrow mud route maintained beautifully by rugged sacks. We started walking only to find small homes enlightened beautifully by the sandal aroma. While some tourists laid back in their boats comfortably reading books, some other were trying to catch fishes! There were Ayurvedic Centers for the locals and the tourists which was a complete package to comfort.
That was indeed a day beautifully spent which ended with sips of tea overlooking the paddy fields on one side, and the pristine backwaters on the other.