I heard of Kerala’s Backwaters for the first time from my 93 year-old grandfather who was at that time, slowly slipping into early stages of dementia.
“I used to sell pots from a boat,” he announced one afternoon.
I was puzzled but didn’t heed his comments. He had just eaten his second lunch, because he couldn’t remember eating his first an hour prior to that.
Following this, he had accused me of stealing his sarong from the clothes line in the porch, and then switched to nostalgia mode literally minutes later.
I giggled as I related the story to my mum’s eldest sister Aunty Grace the next morning – only to find out that he had indeed, in his younger days, sold earthen pots off a boat along Kerala’s backwaters. This was about a decade before he moved to Malaysia in the 1930s.
He died 20 years ago, but was the first person who came to mind as I stepped on a houseboat at a jetty in Alleypey for an overnight stay, and trip along the backwaters, a few weeks ago.
I watched in awe as a boatman rowed along the backwaters with a load of pots!
Only this time there was an array of metal pots together with earthen and plastic ware.
This was just one of many traders why plied the backwaters, selling an array of goods and food.
Kids were boating to school, as women did their laundry and washed their cookware at the steps along the waters that lead to their houses.
Homes, shops, restaurants, hotels, schools, temples, churches, mosques and small businesses are some of the sights along the waters.
The boats have to dock in the evening and overnight passengers have a chance to walk along the banks and mingle with the local villagers – who seem reserved, but are friendly if you make an effort to strike up a conversation.
Our skipper Raju who had lived in the village all his life showed us around his paddy fields and served us mangoes straight from the tree behind his home.
His fields will be planted with paddy once the monsoon season is over.
There are small canals that connect some of these villages that are not linked by road.
Fishermen are allowed to cast their nets after 5pm, and during this time villagers can be seen with homemade rods fishing for their dinner along the banks.
I loved the boatride💕 … but realised the overnight stay was a going to be a nightmare the minute our skipper docked next to some tall grass adjacent to a paddy field.
Seeing a slithery tail outside our window, minutes after the boat docked didn’t help either.
With gaps along its planks and weaved walls, the docked vessel was open to the elements and uninvited guests.
After dinner, the monsoon rain decided to make the setting all the more daunting.
The thunder and pelting rain sent a swarm of cockroaches scuttling out from the tached roof, and walls of the boat.
All this meant a sleepless night.
So yeah, our next trip, we’ll skip the overnight stay! But won’t stop you from trying it out for the experience. 😄👍🏽
More Kerala backwater scenes: