Backwater bliss

Published online: Jul 28, 2010 News James Mathew -
Viewed 493 time(s)

The skies were ominous but the mind was clear. The entire family was together after several years and the rain had no right to take the fun out of a Kerala vacation. Both brothers and their respective wives were eager to explore the state's waterways, and I was only too willing to join. The sister signed up too, and it didn't take long to book a houseboat over the phone.

At 10 am, all six of us piled into a Maruti Alto and headed for Kumarakom, about 20 km from our residence in Kottayam. We reached our appointed spot after half an hour, where our contact man turned up. He accepted the payment in cash, made a short phone call and told us to wait. We were on the banks of what looks like a river, with some canoes in the distance paddled by village folk. A breeze swayed the rain-swept coconut palms, showering a fine spray of water on us. Ducks and herons squawked from behind bushes and the bank. We couldn't wait for the cruise.

There was a low-pitched honk around the canal and soon a houseboat made a stately entry, sliding gently into view. She pulled slowly over to the bank, when the deputy captain of the ship hopped out and secured the boat to a coconut tree with a rope. The boat gently rocked against the banks, heavy tyres fixed on its sides protecting it from impact. The engine powered down and soon, the captain appeared at the starboard, welcoming us inside. Each houseboat has a name, and ours was Puthuveedan. All Keralites, rich or poor, have a family name all of their own, inherited from father to son. Puthuveedan, the family name emblazoned on the boat's flanks, translates to 'the-one-with-a-new-house'.

In the olden days, houseboats (called kettuvallam in Malayalam) used to be part of a well-oiled inland waterway cargo transport system. They used to ferry large amounts of farm produce, including coconuts, paddy and vegetables from the backwaters' islands to faraway markets, navigated by expert oarsmen. Many old Malayalam movies are set in the backdrop of the calm backwaters, with several romantic songs pictured on houseboats. Songs sung by oarsmen as they commandeered the bulky boats across distances, sometimes over several days, became part of the state's folk history. 


You May Also Be Interested In...

March 30, 2015

The Mini Bike Is Back!

The Downtube Mini Shimano Nexus 8SP Folding Bike has answered the call of demand and is back on the market!
March 25, 2015

Restored To Her Glory

If you’re interested in restoration stories, you don’t want to miss this one—which involves a little history lesson to boot.
March 19, 2015

Why You Should Keep Your Smoke Alarms Up To Date

If you want to hear a good argument for keeping your smoke alarms up to date onboard, check out this man’s story according to Cambridge News.
March 11, 2015

Unmanned Houseboat Drifts 165 Miles

You’ve heard of runaway dogs, but have you ever heard of a runaway houseboat?
March 04, 2015

Lake Norris Update: Twin Cove Marina Is Seeing Great Progress

In an admiral show of resilience and dedication, the heavy winter damage at Twin Cove Marina, Carryville, Tenn., is already being tackled by cleanup crews.
February 24, 2015

Norris Lake Boats Suffer Severe Winter Damage

We have sad news—several boats and docks collapsed under the fury of a winter storm in the Norris Lake, Campbell County, Tenn., area this Saturday.
Follow us on Facebook!   Follow us on Instagram!   Follow us on Pinterest!   Follow us on YouTube!