It was that time of the year when the sweetness of the spring was merging with the balmy summer. The board exams were done and dusted with. It was time to take off on a long cherished vacation and what better place than Kerela, God’s Own Country in South India. My dream destination for many years now.
We landed at Kochi (Cochin) well in time to head for Kumarakom, a sleepy, serene town in the backwaters of Kerela. It was a 3/4 hour car drive through the quaint little villages from the coastline of Cochin that looked a resplendent green, despite being a city. Simplicity wafted from everywhere, as we saw mundu clad men, and women adorning beautiful flowers in their nicely oiled hair, at almost every nook and corner. We stopped to pick up some local fruits and managed to get a big bunch of bananas-both the red and small yellow at an interestingly meagre price. It amazes us no end to see how reasonable these towns are compared to the cities we inhabit. There was a vendor selling a cartload of dried fish which I hadn’t seen ever since Philippines and I craned my neck out of the car window to grab its scent. We didn’t stop to buy any as the DH felt it was time we reached our dainty destination, Kumarakom.
Our hotel lay nestled by the banks of the Vembanad Lake, and we were greeted by the warm and friendly staff with garlands of shells and a welcome drink of gigantic coconuts which had the juiciest of coconut water. The coconuts were encapsulated in these jute holders, rustic and creative at the same time.
We were enchanted by the lush, fragrant beauty of the property, the ducks and swans dawdling near the artificial lake that looked as natural as one could imagine. The languorous lake was situated right in the middle of the property. Quaint cottages with lovely sit-outs, cycling tracks, nesting sites for birds, unending patches of green, huge, ancient trees and creaky wooden bridges, dotted it’s periphery. The lake abounded in talapias or kari meen. And one could sit quietly outside the cottages with a wooden fishing rod and go hook, line and sinker.
Since it was post lunch time and we were ravenous, we scrambled to the open restaurant that lay sprawled next to the lake and gorged on some lip smacking Malayali cuisine. I, of course opted for meen (fish) curry with big helpings of rice. There were prawns and other mouth-watering delicacies to choose from too.
Thereafter we walked back to our cottage to catch 42 winks. The girls were too excited and jumped into the swimming pool even before we could tell them to give it sometime post lunch. I grabbed my note pad and headed to the pool too with a mug of lemon green tea and just sat their savouring the awe-inspiring, resplendent colours of nature and the serenity the place had to offer.
Before we knew it, it was tea time and apparently from the banks of Vembanad lake we could watch the sun go down and sip on some masala tea and bite into some vadas, we were told. We headed as quickly as we could. Arusha was already there, engaging in some warm banter with the Mehendi woman who created this lovely pattern on her hand.
A surprise awaited us as the skyline turned a greyish-dark blue from the golden azure. Fruit bats, the size of a little dog flew overhead, en route their night haunt from the forest next door. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. It was a magnificent sight. We were told earlier they would come and hang around the trees of the hotel, but offlate they had moved to newer pastures. There was a little jetty, where I went and plonked myself and after a while I lay on my back, gazing at the star-spangled sky as the crescent moon appeared, lighting up not just my heart but the Vembanad lake and the surrounding flora. It was a beautiful dusk and a surreal way to end the day. But little did we know there was more in store.
As we walked back to our cottage we noticed diyas lined along the length and breadth of the lake, flickering their light into yet another young, radiant night. The crickets were busy engaging in their orchestrated symphony and we heard an owl hoot from the nearby tree. Before we knew it she was swooping overhead and caught her evening supper.
Supper, yes! We freshened up and headed for another sumptuous Malyali meal which began with a glass or two of Rosaˆ The aroma of freshly ground coconut and a medley of spices wafted from the other tables as we bit into the local papoddams. A group of demurely dressed girls from the local village, in resplendent off-white silk sarees with golden boders and vibrant blue blouses engaged in sequences of graceful dances as the musicians made magic with their tablas and instruments. We watched in rapt attention at their bright, beaming expressions and the grace, poise and sweet demanour with which they swayed step after step, in rhythm with the music and the beatific night.
It would be an understatement if I said I slept like a baby. After all, “sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree, I travel the world and seven seas, everybody is looking for something.” Mine is calm, nature, serenity and the surreal stuff Mother nature abounds in. The stuff, quaint little places are made of…