The fabled backwaters of Kerala, oft shown and regularly talked about, are a beauty to witness. This is a watery landscape carved by the onrushing Arabian Sea and outgoing river deltas. They form a labyrinth of islands and atolls with waterways to wander amongst it.
The mix of fresh and salt water creates a unique ecosystem teeming with life: plant, aquatic and amphibian.
When the fancy kingfisher swoops across your view, picks up a tiny bounty in fish and nibbles on it atop a floating hyacinth; you just sit and wonder about karma. Imagine floating around in your canoe atop an expanse of countless flat leaves, still open sky and the breeze which swings by from afar; though you know there’s a million gallons of water beneath it all.
"Toddy.. fish.. coconut.. whaaa.. ??"
Suddenly stirring from my noon-time reverie, “Hmm... I think I’ll give myself a party today. I’ll buy some river prawn, pick up a litre of toddy and make an afternoon of it”. So I store the two little fishes I caught today and stow my gear. Then I paddle back to the village, up the water-alleys, to where my buddy Munnu is weighing sparkly-blue prawns on his floating deck. Delectable choice from his fresh catch and I’m on towards the toddy shop. As always you go to buy a bottle and end up drinking two over gossip with the happy uncles.
Late I may be, but enthusiastic nonetheless! Light a fire under a tree, place the clay-pot, pour some water, wash the prawns, toss them in, chili, ginger, garlic, cumin. Grate a coconut, blend with water and stir it in. Top off with Kerala black pepper. Coat the fish in turmeric, tamarind, salt and pepper; pan fry crisp. Eat the above with coarse red rice and a circle of friends.
As I wake up from my toddy-infused-food-coma, the sky has turned orange and there is indeed a tangy calm about. The water is calmer now that the assiduous house-boats have settled in their corners. The tourists are on their porches sipping-in the twilight. Even the pre-dusk twitter chatter of the birds coming home has settled down. The aroma of spices and fish chaperoned by coconut, wafts along the quiet waters.
In promise, lies the night ahead.
UcL Tip: Take a canoe out to the waterways. It's easy to learn and paddle