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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  1. Shn, I swear I had the goosebumps going through each and every word of this post and the photographs, when I read the heading of your post on my google reader, I silently wished that I hope shn has uploaded some snaps.. she not only uploaded it but gave such beautiful words to accompany it. Exhilarating is the word.. last year I also had the good luck to pass through this place on my way to venmony, my aunts place.. we just drank in the beauty of the place.. One complaint shn.. I really really wished to see 'ammachi' along with the mouth watering dishes she prepared for you guys. Just out of the world,.. and please pass on my ((hugs)) to little king.. who sat so cutely cozily in his fathers hand letting you capture.. the magic on camera...
    take care and God bless

  2. Oh my. You have really outdone yourself this time. I love love love this post. Kept looking at the wonderful pictures. A big thank you to you.

  3. I got lost reading and felt i was in kuttanadu with all those beautiful pics. Nice to see ammachi and beauty of kuttanadu.

  4. It is really a heartfelt post and great pictures too. Kuttanaad is on my list of places to visit or a long time now. Hopefully I will get there this year.. Hugs to little king :)

  5. oh my chech..Brilliant post..beautifully presented!! I am sure Ammachi will be on cloud nine when she comes to know abt this.i can imagine the blush on her face :)). Hats off to you!!

  6. Beautiful pictures! My mother is also from Kainakary so this post brought back so many memories! I especially remember walking those narrow bridges so fearfully! I can smell the aromas of all the curries you presented-thank you!!

  7. Ah! You fulfilled my wish, Shn. I don't know why, I was missing Pallikuttumma (Kuttanad- Amma's home) for the last few weeks, especially when I eat mangoes. And now your pictures satisfied me :) I really feel I was there!

    Btw, you mentioned about the erachi chathachu ularthiyathu rite? I just made a batch a week ago, never blogged about it.I simply love them . It goes so well with 'chorum thayirum'.

    Hope you are well! Thank you once again for this beautiful post.


    O! We were at Wisconsin Dells for our Labour Day weekend :) LOVE Wisconsin!

  8. very beautifully captured pics and a lovely writeup! I loved the food spread which made me hungry:)

  9. u have a great blog...been following ur blog from last 3 years...n u inspired me to start my own http://cardamomhills.blogspot.com/ which happened in last couple of days....cheers!

  10. I have been such a bad friend being out of touch for sooooo long. Do forgive me.

    I hope that you and the family are doing well. It is wonderful to see you blogging again.

  11. Oh! Beautiful pictures. I feel nostalgic.

  12. Oh wow, this post left me speechless Shn! Beautiful pictures and beautiful narration! We went on a roadtrip through Kuttanadu this time too. I really wanted to get on a wooden boat, my dad wouldn't let us. :)
    And that meal at Ammachi's house, that left me drooling...b

  13. Though I have gone thru ur blogs many times before,this time I couldn't resist myself in leaving a comment.

    I am not getting any words to describe this marvellous post.You have proved to be an excellent chef, an excellent photographer & an excellent blogger.

    Great job.

    God bless you.

  14. Lovely post..led me to Kuttanadu,just felt was traveling with you..beautiful pictures..the beauty and simplicity of Kuttanadu.

  15. Oooo...i loved the pics and the write up....verytime i go thru it it reminds me of my kannur home where i spend early years of my childhood and my vacation.....that picture of man standing with hands folded behind is a typical scene always!!....and woman and men washing clothes and dishes....thoni kanda kaalam marannu....this post always takes me to kannur, so i keep coming here to get that feeling....:)BTW, i have never been to kuttanaadu though...

  16. Love you Mishmash! You are the best! Recently I gave your blog link to my sister for Onam sadya and they loved every bit of your blog!

  17. I was in Kerala last year. It was my first trip ever to Kerala and I absolutely loved it. Thanks you for the lovely pictures. Cant wait to go back for another visit!

  18. Hey,
    where are you ?? please post some recipes !!

  19. What are the medical emergencies can you think of that would happen to a local farmer other than minor accidents at his work?

  20. Wow Shn, you made me so nostalgic, I am missing home.
    btw, my grandmother is from kainakary. my parents, grandparents and their parents are all from different parts of kuttanad, so that makes me a pedigreed kuttanaadan I guess :-)

  21. This might just surprise you a bit but should tell you how much I love your blog! You have just been conferred with an award :) please check my blog post for rules.
    Cardamom hills

  22. Lovely post..had been to kainakary a few yrs back...ur pics remind me of my vacations spent with grandparents..I belong to Alleppey and so this post has really touched the right chord in my heart. Simply beautiful pic and very well-written!!

  23. Ee blog onnu update cheyyamo :)


  24. I am married to Kuttanad! My husband comes originally from Kuttanad and we have strong ties with the place. I come there to visit the Thakazhi Dharmasastha Temple ,to pay our respects to much loved relatives and friends, to visit the streets and shops which I have a liking to...and the fish kurry and goose kurry only to imagine, for Iam a vegetarian! But still... can understand. would like to come at least once in a month with my husband and son, you see, 'loving is believing', iam always there!

  25. What a beautiful, beautiful post Shn.....love the pics and the write-up.

  26. Dear Shn,

    Your Little King might have turned one...Still remember u writing...'One late afternoon in November' :)

    Had been wanting to wish u earlier..but couldnt. Sending ur little one a belated birthday wish. Hope he had a lovely time.

    Would love to hear how you celebrated the occasion...


  27. Dear all, really sorry for not replying earlier..thx for being patient with me and letting me know that you still drop by here! thats a great feeling and just the right kick to get back to this space :)

    Rekha, i have given ammachi pic, didn't u notice...she is the one on chatta -mundu infront of the house :) and yes, Little King hugs you back.. right now he understands the word hug :)

    Poornima, thanks :) btw, how was NO trip? did you enjoy the place, food and music?

    Pravs,I havent heard from you in a long time...we need to catch up sometime!

    Priya, thanQ:)

    Seema, thanks a bunch...really happy to know that you liked the post...hugs from li'l King too :)

    Sijo, oh the blush ! I know I know :)

    Binsy, oh..am sure u have a truckload of memories from this place and your maternal home ....one priceless childhood !

    Ria, thanks dear:) How ve u been? getting ready for X'mas alle...first one after marriage..enjoy :) yeah the one with sun-dried meat...yummy ..i loved it :)

    Sharmi, thats mostly non-veg ;)

    Ma, I did enjoy your blog too :) Hope u re having fun blogging.

    Cynthia, you need to forgive me too ;)

    Nithu, :)

    Sig, dad is still too protective about his girls, hus ? :) really happy to know that you enjoyed the post..:)

    Mary, your comment really lifted my spirits up that day :)thanks a ton!

    Suja, you should go there once...much more beautiful than what u see in my pics :)

    Shabs, "that picture of man standing with hands folded behind is a typical scene always!!" isn';t that same throughout our state...? that cool casual look, that attitude....oh..i miss home....!!

    Inji Pennu, Love you too, dear....:)

    Maya, next time include kuttanadu too in ur itinerary..you will thanks me , trust me :)

    Anon, your message gave me a good feeling that there re still some people reading this blog..thanks for checking on me :) I will try to be regular..

    Raj, there could be a heart failure or any similar medical emergencies right?

    Bindu, oh yes...very much :)))) I wish u were my neighbour...nalla kuttanadan dishes edakkokke adikkallo :P

    Cardamom Hills, hope you got my message,,thanks alot :)

    Vandana, thanks a lot...i love alappuzha too...my maternal grandma is from there....i specifically love that quaint little town look of the place..:)

    Sijo, I did finally ;)

    Geethanjali, wow, I am so amazed! you truly love this place and its people...thanks a lot for coming here and writing a message for me..means a lot !

    Jayashree, thanks a lot!

    Archana, "who's there?" :P

    Reshma, comments like yours make me wonder , how people can be so sweet and nice ...how someone can care for me and my family so much even when you havent seen us....how someone in some corner of the world can remember my baby's birthday when some of my relatives and friends cant even remember...i truly don't know how to thank you !!!!!!!!! My hugs....


  28. I loved this post... its so rich with very evocative photos. I want to go to Kerala right now! Stuck in Mumbai though :P
    Those water hyacinths look so pretty when they're blooming that one would never guess what a nuisance they really are. I'm pretty sure that the very enterprising Malayalee will soon come up with some craft utilising these!


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