A Village in the Backwaters of Kerala, South India
Kerala Travel Blog› entry 20 of 46 › view all entries
I just spent one week living with a family in a remote village deep in the backwaters of south India. This was a highlight of my journey so far. And, I can NOT imagine a better way to end my time here in India.
If you add a 2 hour bus ride, a 1.5 hour ferry ride and a 2 minute canoe trip from Cochin, you arrive at Chennamkary Village, Kerala in south India. It is located in a vast maze of island-like fields and backwaters. Each "village" is like its own island. They call this area the "rice-bowl of Kerala" because it produces 80% of all the rice in the entire state. The backwaters are large, small, wide and narrow waterways that connect AND separate the land and villages.
This experience is my TOP recommendation for anyone of any age coming to India. I lived with a family who had an extra house for guests. Besides being rice farmers, they run a guest house for extra income AND enjoyment (please ask me for their contact info). They were famous in the village because they brought people from the outside world. Locals were fascinated when we passed by - because we were white. They have not seen very many white people and to them it is like seeing a rare bird.
The family cooked three AMAZING local meals every day - chicken from the yard, bananas from the trees and water buffalo from the neighbors. Thomas, our sweet and humble host took us out twice a day - morning and evening - to experience the village.
We took our bikes across on canoes to go for a ride. We walked on narrow mud jetties through rice-patties. We strolled through the paths along the water passing hundreds of houses. We rowed canoes through the backwaters.
The people here live off the water and the land. Each house or "shack" has waterfront property with three steps leading into the water. They bathed in the water, did their dishes in the water and even did their laundry here, slapping the clothes against rocks. Everywhere we went, the people looked, smiled and followed us (check out my photos)! They were so incredibly happy to have foreign visitors. Sometimes they asked if they could "walk with me".
They loved seeing the photos that we took. And, the children were amazing.
Children. The kids ran over every time they saw me. "One pen?" they would ask. "One Cho-co-late?" "One Coin?". I always replied with "No pen. One photo?" - and that was good enough. I took photos and videos. And the kids would crowd around to watch and laugh. They climbed all over me and would play for as long as I would play. But the second I said, "Ta-ta!" (goodbye), they would skip off into the distance laughing and screaming - yelling "Ta-ta" into the distance.
The people here have very little "posessions" but they are happier than can be and they have everything else. They have an incredible community - where everyone literally works together and relies on one another. They have a deep sense of family. Family is a focus of what they have. Religion, tradition and customs are a huge part of their lives. Because of the Portuguese influence, Hindus and Christians live together. Christmas time in Kerala is quite something special!
I have taken over 5,000 photos since I left the USA on September 26th. Most of them are of people. I am fascinated by the eyes, facial expressions and body positions of the local Indian people.
So, my time is India has come to a close. My last night in India was magical. At midnight, Jason and Melanie and I took a canoe out for a float under the stars. We brought our iPods and rowed through the narrow backwaters for hours - listening to powerful music and meaningful lyrics. I have never listened to music like that before. It entered my soul and warmed my heart. The three of us never spoke. We all knew that this was the end of something big. Melanie and I were leaving the next day - leaving forever. And so the three of us - together - shared a solo experience - rowing the canoe in silence and darkness into the night. We often stopped to lay back under the stars and absorb our surroundings - the earth, the world, the universe and our short little lives as we know them.