Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A glimpse into the day-to-day life of people at Kainakary, a pristine village in Kuttanadu, Kerala.

Small Talk said...
I m from Kainakary...its a hamlet in Kuttanaad...with immense love and warmth I extend a warm invite to visit our beautiful land...all the stories tht u hv heard...and the images people painted for u will be dwarfed wen u see it for urself....if Kerala is Gods own Land...Kuttanaad is the street the he lives on....Until very recently western vegetables like cauliflower.beans carrot were a luxury.....daily meals were more of fish,poulty,dry fish chamanthi or raw mango chamanthi etc...Women cleaning fish on the sides of canal...men walking around with a bunch a freshly caught karimeen..kids jumping in to water from a coconut palm leaning across canal...trees laden with mangoes stooping onto the backwaters...ammachis visitng church in pristine white chatta...these everyday sights on the backdrop of various hues of green makes u think tht God created a symphony with colours..whose melody lingers even wen u r in a far away land.....Please visit Kuttanaadu...Nedumudi..Kainakary..mk sure u listen to all local folklores from ur ammachi...learn many recipes (share it wth us as well plz)....I m sure u will have a warm and hospitable stay in Kuttanaad...”

November 3, 2009 9:02 AM.

An eloquent comment I received on my Duck Roast post. I enjoyed every bit of kochuvarthavanam/small talks, she used to share through my comment section and this particular one gave me goosebumps and it still does, as her words literally soaks the serenity, the village is drenched in. How do I know for sure, one might ask! Well, I got a bit lucky early this year and spent one of the most memorable 3-4 hours of my life on this blessed piece of land!!

I had build up a very high image of the wealth of beauty of Kuttanadu from the expressive descriptions of CJJ and his family. My imagination got colourful picking images from the sneak-peek I had few years back on a boat ride, into one of those narrow canals that crisscross the whole of Kuttanadu. To top it all, I had readers and fellow bloggers like Small Talk!! Hence at the beginning of our trip, I was quite apprehensive, doubting if the reality would disappoint me ……but the moment we took a deviation from the Cochin –Alappuzha main road, I knew I was about to be transported into a whole new world and experience of a lifetime. A well paved two way country road crossed the fields, on both sides, flooded with water, as it was right after harvesting season. Yes, we missed the most enchanting sight of the vast stretches of verdant paddy fields, swaying in the winds …a sight so typical of a place like Kuttanadu. But that’s ok, I have seen paddy fields earlier too, I must be happy that I got to see other hues of green and get a feel of the daily life of the natives…yeah, call it looking at the brighter side of life! :)

The country road leading to the boat jetty seemed less trafficked and untouched by both domestic and foreign tourists. By the wayside, there were some makeshift shops selling naadan tharavu/country ducks , cycle workshop, bus stops ……….and the drive was so peaceful, without any honking or the hustle and bustle of a city road. We opened the car windows and let the fresh air come in and it was so refreshing….!

At the boat jetty I could feel my heart beat beginning to race, not excited at the arresting beauty of the landscape in front but the sight of a motor run country boat CJJ’s uncle had arranged for us…a typical ‘vanchi’ or ‘vallam’/country boat or ‘cheru-thoni’ as CJJ’s family sweetly refers. I went weak on my knees at the thought of travelling in such a small boat with Little King, leave alone the thought of hopping on to it , balancing myself with a hyper-active baby, a diaper bag weighing close to 6 pounds and a bulky camera bag. One could touch and splash some water sitting in such small boats. I let CJJ do the balancing act and gave him a piece of my heart, my Little King, said a prayer and hopped on to the boat, with the help of all the men present in the boat, except the little lad! I settled myself in the middle of the boat facing my two boys ……and as I saw Little King sitting cozily in his father’s safe hands, smiling at the cool breeze that touched his face softly, I began to loosen up and soak up the vibrant life around me…..

The vast expanse of water, dotted with house boats/Kettu Vallam here and there had a charm of its own..

But the moment we entered the narrow pockets of canals, I was thrilled to realise that my imagination, exaggerated or not, had fallen right into the grooves of reality, fitting perfectly! The scene was effervescent with life on the banks of these canals…..men and women washing clothes, vessels, diving in for a swim…..

locals relaxing and fishing on a mid morning in the company of their friends, women taking rest by the banks of the paddy fields with their lunch boxes…….

men enjoying a smoke at the
pettikkada ( small shop) ……….

Along the way, we saw temples, churches, cemetery and even a toddy shop quite typical to this place…..

That small country boat/Cheru-thoni I referred earlier, seemed to be a recurring scene wherever we looked…..

….locals use it for transport , fishing and shopping as well….but I must also mention that they have bigger motor boats for public transport, which is not there in my pictures.

They are also used for bringing in potable water in huge cylindrical barrels, 'coz of the scarcity of drinking water. I was told by CJJ that many years ago, there were no barrels and instead country boats itself were filled with potable water, after a thorough clean up and water was distributed to all the households in the area.

…narrow bridges connecting the two sides of the canal were spotted everywhere…..

another striking feature of the canals were these floating African Paayal or “Pola” as the locals say is a type of water moss. They seem quite invasive, making it a struggle for natives for fishing as well as for boatmen. We lost almost 10-15 minutes in the boat, on the way back because of these floating hassles. In one of the pictures below, you can see a part of the canal netted adjacent to a house; I was told that it is to avoid the intrusion of these green giants. CJJ also shared that one of the methods of keeping these green hassles away is by creating a square barricade with banana stems.

Most of the houses seem to be owning a boat, either a motor boat or country boat and some seem to be having a private
kadavu where they park their boats. You can also see a traditional cane basket used for fishing in one of the pictures below.

BUT do you really think I took the risk of travelling with
Little King, in that small country boat through a vast lake , with zero skill in swimming, just to drench myself in the tranquilizing charm of this village? No! Those who have been following this blog for last few years know that I had something else in my agenda…..to make my dream a reality …my dream of visiting Ammachi, CJJ’s grandma who shared my maternal grandmother's name.....who introduced me to new levels of flavours in my cooking, who shared some of her classic dishes with me over the phone……..and when Little King was born, I wanted him to have her blessings!

And there I was right infront of her house……..

We spent few hours listening to her stories……watching her excitement……….her non-stop chatting……warm hugs …..complaints for giving only a short notice about our visit and yet she had a table full of simple food cooked for us…. spicy egg roast, tongue –tickling Manga/mango pachadi, puzha-meen varuthathu/fish fry, sweet and sour puli inji/ginger, Unakka erachi chathachathu/a relish with dried meat, Pulisseri, a simple well seasoned, spiced yogurt sauce and I cant recollect the rest in the menu because I was trying my best to pay attention to the incessant flow of her stories as well as do justice to each dish relishing the taste and flavours and pausing in between to get the list of secret ingredients and method of cooking.

All of us were full yet she did not let us disperse without a cup of tea and some fruit cake……And as our boat began to move away, with a touch of anxiety in her words, she called out ,” mole….
avide etheettu udane vilkkanam ketto…” (call me when u reach home)

And I bid my farewell to her and to this beautiful place, with memories for a lifetime……..and I must say, as much as I was influenced by the tranquility of the place…..the effervescent life on the banks of the canals……….the simplicity in the lives of the people……the underlying hardships written on the leathery faces of farmers and fishermen……the freshness in the air and the beauty of cool breeze, I had a disturbing thought brewing in my head….

For an average farmer or fisherman, if a medical emergency arises, I think it takes about minimum 15-20 minutes or more , to reach a decent primary care especially if they don’t own a motor boat and all they have is that small country boat as the main mode of transport …..and that perhaps would be the most decisive 15-20 minutes of one’s life!!!!! Does beauty and tranquility come with a price??


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