9. Seven Men in a Boat

@Kumarakom, Kerala, India.

This was the first official trip of 2011; and with no doubt, the funniest and the classic trip as we might refer to it. This one was heavily planned; been planning this for such a long time that Kumarakom has changed so much through that period of time. It was meant to be to the land of a wide variety of birds and water creatures, as they claim; no doubt were some of them, but we didn’t fly; neither did we swim or fall underwater. But we were still part of it. This was quite a different trip for me as this was a journey to a hundred percent tourism place and there was no history to talk about it; there was no literature, there was the lack complicated, twisted roads which I always used to follow; everything was too clear with no mystery trail behind it. We can still think about Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things as the village mentioned in the book, Aymanam is not that far away. We can say that there was zero spirituality, even as the invisible presence of the one above never left me.

This one was supposed to be a two-people trip which widened it’s horizons so much that it became a four-people trip when it started in a Daewoo Matiz sponsored by the legendary Mechanical Engineer who was one of the first two. We were joined by a big man with a powerful french beard. There was another man, the good old Aluvaite who landed from Australia with a ‘wassup mate’ sound regularly produced from his nervous system and transmitted to the speech organs which reproduce that particular pattern of sound which creates vibrations in the air and as it pass through air and reach us, and we interpret it as whatever we want to, but as we already know what it is about, the decoding of that sound by our ears through whatever the reverse procedure may be, was easier. We were to be joined by two more people on a motorbike later, but there was nothing like a journey in Matiz; it was as wonderful as being enclosed in a soap case. It taught me the lesson that a Tata Indica is too big a car and it is so unfair.

It was a long journey as we went to Kottayam through Thodupuzha and then to Kumarakom. It was a classic longcut which we took as we were too great to take the easy way out. We always made our route rather than taking it; and in this case, every road led to Kumarakom. The path was getting more and more difficult; may be it was like the path to heaven; that path which is rarely taken, that way through which not everybody can pass through; that path which inspire people enough to make long speeches about it, but is rarely chosen due to the sufferings. This road was our route which was taken; the road which Matiz survived, not without difficulty but with passion; the bikers survived too as if they were born for it. It totally changed our impression about the car; it became our little master car as it didn’t even worry us about the mileage. May be it has a city like in the movie ‘Cars’ where it would share this story of survival in the rough terrain as if it is Lightning McQueen after winning it’s race.

As we went into the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, we knew that we were destined to see only crows, even as we didn’t go there to watch the black birds of hidden beauty. We carefully avoided the KTDC Sanctuary interpretation centre and walked. Our path was surrounded by wetlands, the ones which had so many trees and plants half-covered in water and the rest which had nothing much over the surface. There were people on the trees; may be that was just us. Our photo session was matched only by some foreigners taking so many random photos. They were indeed photogenic, but not that much as to people who get an overdose of similar greenery very often. But it is a tourist attraction as they have written so, and therefore it should be considered a crime not to take some snaps. In Kumarakom, there are so many locations which might seem to be forced tourist destinations; as if they want people to stop there and take pictures. The popularity of digital camera and camera phones seems to have inspired the photography of anything and everything.

As there was no houseboat in the plan, we were soon into a canoe. We six people along with the boatman were soon into a one and half or two hour journey which was slow, but so much enjoyable. I wasn’t sure about that though, as I believed in my chance of drowning in the longest lake in India and the largest in Kerala, what was known as Vembanad Lake. I left it to a fifty-fifty percent chance for survival as it was an adventure that I wanted; a risk which I had to take for a change. I was also glad that if I die I would get to drink so much water and there was a chance that my dead body might reach Kochi by water and that would lessen the cost of transportation significantly. I tried rowing the boat, but then realized that taking photos was the much better option. So many houseboats with foreigners and people from other states passed by, as we slowly moved around to nowhere, watching the beauty of Kerala backwaters. The coconut trees were not that inspiring, but combined with water and the reflections, they made a better effort to look good in my camera.

Singing ‘Row, row, row your boat; Gently down the stream’ would have been a good idea, but our rowing just resulted in getting more and more water inside the boat as well as hitting the people who were sitting behind. This lead to us proving the theory that ‘Rowing without experience is injurious to the health of the person sitting right behind you’ which should have already been considered an axiom as it was too obvious. It was a voyage which could remind us of how beautiful Kerala is; how wonderful the God’s own country is; how much of an inspiration it could be and how much awesomeness is hidden in there. When we returned, we failed to drink tea until it was dark, which I considered a catastrophic damage to my tea addiction and an extreme act of cruelity to what a legendary thing tea happens to be. My reputation as a classic tea drinker was affected, but we repaired it soon enough to prevent a ‘Tea Armageddon’ which would lower my belief in the ‘Legend of the awesome tea’ and thus bring an end to the confidence which I have placed in tea; that inspiring force which has been powering me for so many years and the extra love for tea which I have carried over from England and Sri Lanka.

Diving out —>

TeNy