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Monday, 26 May 2014

Day 4: On a houseboat in Kumarakom

The funniest part in the reception was a priest requesting the guests to give gifts to the couple. After the photo session, we had a sumptuous lunch, as usual, boiled rice, non-veg items.
After the lunch, we rushed to the hotel for a siesta, before heading towards Kumarakom. Rajeshattan told us to take rest for 1 hour, but we had a nap for over 2 hours. We checked out of the room in the evening and went to Rajeshattan’s house in Kottayam. His mother and sister at home made us feel comfortable. Tall, good looking and elegant, Rajeshattan’s mother didn’t look like a Mallu! Neither his sister did, may be because of the accent which was polished.
Later, we went to the club to inform the staff that we were going to the cottage. What I observed after travelling for two days was the roads were very narrow and maneuvering them needs skill.
The road leading to the cottage was so narrow that even if a two-wheeler came from the opposite direction, it was very difficult for both motorists.
By the time we reached the place, it was dark and couldn’t see the backwaters. The moment we stepped in, the staff informed us that there was only one room, which enraged Rajeshattan. He started shouting at the staff for not reserving the rooms, as the rooms were booked one month ago.
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Rajeshattan had confirmed and re-confirmed the booking several times before we went there. After an hour’s shouting and making several calls, the staff had no other go but to give the room booked for someone else! His anger was legitimate. What if someone from other state visits and comes to know that the reserved rooms were given to someone else? If they don’t have any acquaintance in the place, it is very difficult to find accommodation in the night in a new place.
Though a tiring journey, the men sat for a drink and later, Rajeshattan’s friend Benny joined them.
Benny, Rajeshattan and Paapi
Benny, Rajeshattan and Paapi
Viji and me shared our past sitting on a swing. Cool breeze from the backwaters gave a nice company for us.
On the swing
On the swing
After eating Kerala Paratha with chicken curry, we slept off planning to get up early.
I woke up at 6 am to see the lake and it was like Oh My God! I was speechless for a moment. It looked like an ocean rather than a lake, water water every where…
Vij looks at kayal from the room
Vij looks at kayal from the room
I woke up Vij and he didn’t mind to come out of the room even though the hangover had not gone completely. He was taken aback to see the vastness and beauty of the lake.
Vembanad Lake
Vembanad Lake
Both watched the serene lake and a few houseboats moving before capturing the beauty in the camera.
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Our room in Kumarakom was a fabulous private cottage. From the wonderful location overlooking the backwaters, clean and spacious room, good cuisine, cheery, polite and attentive staff made the stay most memorable one.
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The cottage was meant for club members and was not given for outsiders.
old motor boats
old motor boats
There were few old motor boats anchored in the cottage.
water hyacinth (water lilies)
water hyacinth (water lilies)
Water lilies completely covered the surface and we were unable to see the depth of the lake near the cottage.
The vast lake behind me
The vast lake behind me
I was badly in need of drinking water and I remembered how sweet our Cauvery water is and I missed it there. The water didn’t taste good and I was feeling thirsty not for any water, but for our water! No other go, I asked the staff if I could get a tender coconut (red one in particular) and the person got me not one but two. It tasted so delicious that I felt like taking the other with me for the boat journey, but I didn’t.
The houseboat waiting for us near the cottage
The houseboat waiting for us near the cottage
Rajeshattan told us that Kumarakom was practically unknown till Henry Baker purchased the land from the erstwhile Raja of Travancore to build himself a grand home.
Kottayam Kunjachan, named after a Malayalam flick
Kottayam Kunjachan, named after a Malayalam flick
When they left India, Taj hotels stepped in to turn it into a fancy resort, changing the fortunes of the once quiet fishing hamlet. But today, it is a maze of modern resorts and heritage homes-cum-hotels spilling over the island banks.
Our houseboat coming near the cottage
Our houseboat coming near the cottage
The houseboat came near the cottage around 9.30 am and round 10.30 am, we embarked on a voyage of dreams in our exquisitely built houseboat. Traditionally, houseboat was called Kettuvallam, which means a boat made by tying together pieces of wood. Unbelievable as it may sound, not a single nail is used in the making of a Kettuvallam. Jack wood planks are joined together with coir rope and then coated with black resin made from boiled cashewnut shell oil, which acts as a protective coating. The roof is made of bamboo poles and palm leaves. A houseboat will be about 60 to 70 feet in length and a width of around 15 feet in the middle.
Our houseboat had well furnished and bath attached three bedrooms, sun bath-deck, lounge-cum-dining room and a kitchen. The boat had modern facilities like air condition, electric lights, fans, European style bathrooms and showers in all the three rooms.
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The boat looked like a mini-palace gliding along the vast green expanse of backwaters, the most exciting spectacle of the world. The simple joys of life amidst the delicate embrace of mists, was enhanced by the pleasant harmony of singing birds. Green stretches of paddy fields surrounded the rustic charm of tiny islands fringed with long rows of swaying coconut trees, as time seemed to stand still while we drifted along.
Rajeshattan, Viji and me on the upper deck
Rajeshattan, Viji and me on the upper deck
The boat was very spacious and had lot of moving space. The view of the lake from the Sundeck (upper deck) was most spectacular.
Music, dance and jokes by Anglo-Indian friends made the journey more interesting and lively (??!!).
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Two experienced boatmen navigated us through the tranquil stretches of the backwaters.
steering the boat
steering the boat
All enjoyed the meals — lunch (avial, thoran, white rice, taravu, fish curry and pappadam), evening snacks (palampuri, I might be spelling it wrong, as Malayalis pronounce it with a nasal sound!), and dinner (rice, sambar, chapati, upperi and pappadam), breakfast (Idli and sambar). Rajeshattan had informed the cook that we need white rice ad not Kerala boiled rice. The food was served on time and we found the quantity to be adequate.
Vij and others, being sea food lovers enjoyed fish delicacies, as the fresh catch from the backwaters went directly from the waters to the kitchen for frying!
What more, the boat stopped near a toddy shop in an island and everybody enjoyed the drink while children kept themselves busy catching small fish in the lake.
A fisherman transporting sea muscles in his canoe
A fisherman transporting sea muscles in his canoe
Fishermen not only catch fish in the Vembanad Lake but also small muscles, one of the dietary staples of backwater dwellers, that grow in the bottom of the lake. Fishermen take shells generated by muscles and sell it to factories.
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Factories mix the shells with carbon, bake in fire till they turn white and hose with water. The chemical reaction turns them into calcium hydroxide powder.
Lying down on the bed and seeing the sprawling backwaters from the bedroom window made it a perfect holiday!
They docked the boat in the evening and it was already getting dark and my plan of going on a canoe cruise through narrow backwater channels went for a toss. Vij didn’t miss a chance to steer the houseboat when it was anchored!
Vij steering the boat
Vij steering the boat
Eldho and his wife Sheela joined us in the evening to spend night on the houseboat. It was time to bid adieu to others, and one group went to Munnar and the other to a religious visit.
Anglo-Indian group
Anglo-Indian group
We went to a small church overlooking the lake and sat on the compound of it and had a quick chat. The chat revolved around Christian beliefs and miracles.
The three men had their own time, pulling each other’s legs and we three women shared our thoughts. Eldho’s wife explained us about the working condition in Thuraif, about people, shopping and other related things.
In the meanwhile, we decided to watch a movie and caught few scenes from Mammooty’s latest flick, where his mother’s role was played by Usha Utthappa. While we were busy watching the film, Rajeshattan was busy swimming in the backwaters. He shouted from there that the water was not deep and if he stands it is coming to his shoulder level. Some parts in the lake are not deep and are shallow and fishermen take shells from such places.
During Onam festival, the lake becomes alive with boat races.
The Kerala Backwaters is a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast known as the Malabar coast. The network includes five large lakes, including Ashtamudi Kayal and Vembanad Kayal, linked by 1,500 km of canals, both man-made and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually the entire length of the state.
Backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats. Vembanad Lake is the largest of the lakes, covering an area of 200 sq km. It borders Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The port of Kochi is located at the lake’s outlet to the Arabian Sea.
On Tuesday morning we bid adieu to our houseboat. We visited the house of Rajeshattan to meet his mother before leaving for Kochi.
Vij and I were eager to meet see Suhana, his close friend Amar’s daughter. It had been so long since we met Amar and his wife Deepa. Eldho dropped us to Amar’s house around 2.30-3 pm.

  



Day 3: Kadamattom Church

Great legendary figure Rev. Fr. Paulose Kathanar alias Kadamattathu Kathanar lived in this church and people are not sure about the period.
Kadamattom church
Kadamattom church
Viji told us that Kadamattathu Kathanar finds a very prominent place in the local mythical stories Asianet broadcasts the serial ‘Kadamattathu Kathanar’.
A worker cleaning the outer wall of Kadamattom church
A worker cleaning the outer wall of Kadamattom church
Rajeshattan told that the rush of pilgrims to this place has been there from time immemorial. And the church was lively with the celebration of Holy Sacraments according to the Antiochean Syrian Orthodox rite. But unfortunately, the church is gripped in the faction feud of Malankara Church and is closed now.
Before going to the wedding, we thought of parking the car in the Poyedam Church.
Poyedam church
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Poyedam church
It is  a new building compared to the Kadamattom.  Near this church is the famous ‘well’ known as ‘Pathala Kinar’ (the well through which Kathanar went to the underworld).
well near Poyedam church
well near Poyedam church
The Poyedam church can be seen from the back of the Kadamattom church and is only walkable distance from there.
Rajeshattan informed us that devotees of Kathanar, mostly non-Christians, throw money, butchered hen and bottles of liquor into the well as a mark of respect and gratitude to Kathanar. A witchcraft known as ‘kadamattom seva’ is also popular among non-Christian devotees here.
Devotees throw bottles, money, buthchered hen into the well
Devotees throw bottles, money, buthchered hen into the well
Jacobites have a chapel near the Poyedam church, where Eldho’s wedding was organised.
Jacobit chapel wher Eldho's wedding happened
Jacobit chapel wher Eldho's wedding happened
Kadamattom church is not accessible to worship. Devotees are forced to be satisfied by praying at the doorsteps in front of the closed main door.
Huge lamp in Kadamattom church
Huge lamp in Kadamattom church
Devotees light candles in front of the door and pray.
closed main door of kadamattom church
closed main door of kadamattom church
But we were fortunate enough to enter the church from a side door which was kept open for some renovation. In fact, workers were cleaning the walls of the outer building when we visited the place.
nadakashala in kadamattom church
nadakashala in kadamattom church
There are many traces of Hindu temple architecture having influenced the church and the main door of the church holds mirror for it. There is a huge lamp inside similar to Hindu temples.
Inside the church
Inside the church
The ‘nadakashala’ is the place where devotees pray.
old chandelier hangs from the mural adorned ceiling in kadamattom church
old chandelier hangs from the mural adorned ceiling in kadamattom church
Old chandeliers, pictures of saints, including Kathanar in eyes of a painter as an old man dressed white and having a long white beard which is a characteristic of Syrian Orthodox tradition belief drew our attention.
Kathanar in the eyes of an artist
Kathanar in the eyes of an artist
Rajeshattan informed us that there were around 2,000 families under this Parish spread around Kadamattom. It is believed that Mar Abo, (also known as Mar Sabour), a Persian prelate established the church with the help and permission of local ruler of Kadamattom.
Mar Abo was a theologian, conjurer and herbalist. He stayed in a hut along with a poor old widow and her son Paulose and the place which houses Poyedam church now. Paulose assisted Mar Abo for several years and Mar Abo ordained Paulose as priest and he later became famous as Kadamatttathu Kathanar.
Rajeshattan telling about Kathanar's miracles
Rajeshattan telling about Kathanar's miracles
Kadamattathu Kathanar was a famous magician and a conjurer, blessed with divine powers. Folklore describe his feats against evil forces, witchery and incantation with his prayers and divine powers. He always helped the poor and the needy, irrespective of caste and creed.
Rajesh and Viji in front of Kadamattom church
Rajesh and Viji in front of Kadamattom church
The stories about Kathanar were indeed interesting.
One day, young Paulos was grazing cattle of the priest when he had to enter the forest in search of a strayed cow.  Mala Arayas, a cannibal tribe in the jungle capture him. The chief of the tribe likes the intelligence of the and teaches him the magic which the tribe had been practising for long. Paulos stayed with the tribe for 12 years and escapes. After walking few miles, he finds a hut on the roadside and requests her to give him some food.
She informs him that she too is hungry and there was no rice at home to cook. He asks her to find at least some rice gains in the house and get them to him. On his advice, the old woman boils water by putting few grains found at home and gets pot full of rice.
After hearing this story, I felt how Hindu tradition has greatly influenced the Christianity. In Mahabharata, during the exile of the Pandavas, Durvasa visits them with his disciples. During this period, the Pandavas obtained their food by means of the Akshaya Patra, which would become exhausted for the day once Draupadi finished her meal. When Durvasa arrived there was no food left to serve him, and the Pandavas were very anxious as to what would be their fate if they failed to feed such a venerable sage. While Durvasa and his disciples were away at the banks of the river bathing, Draupadi prayed to Lord Krishna for help. Sri Krishna partook the lone grain of rice that remained in the Akshaya Patra and announced that he was satisfied by the meal. This satiated the hunger of Durvasa and all his disciples too, as the satisfaction of Lord Krishna meant the satiation of the hunger of the whole universe. The sage and his disciples then left, blessing the Pandavas.
The concept of Akshaya Patra might have influenced people while praisng Kathanar through folk songs.
Viji, and and Vij
Viji, and and Vij
People from all over Kerala sought his help often for various matters. He had lots of disciples also.
Kadamattom church
Kadamattom church
Another interesting story about Kathanar is associated with yakshi. The capital of Travancore in those days was Padmanabhapuram, now in Tamil Nadu. There was a deep forest between Thiruvanathapuram and Padmanbhapuram. But  people were forced to use the forest track to reac. One Yakshi settled in the forest,  in the guise of a beautiful woman wait by the wayside and request travellers for white lime for her pan. After getting lime, she used to chat and entice them to go with her deep into the forest. Once inside she would kill them, drink their blood and eat them. Only hair and teeth would be left. So people were scared to go that way and she started catching people from neighbouring villages. The village elders sought the help of Kathanaar. He went to the forest and offered to her on an iron nail. Although Yakshi initially hesitates, finally accepts. The priest reciting some magical words inserts the nail into her head and walks back to Kadamattam. Yakshi follows him like a lamb and after after walking for four to five days, they reach  the house of an old woman at Kayamkulam. The priest offers the old woman to keep as a domestic help. After the lunch, the old woman combs the hair of Yakshi and removes  the iron nail from her head. Yakshi immediately gets back her powers and becomes invisible.
After learning about the incident, Kathanar reaches  Parayannarkavu  (kavu is a small temple) in search of Yakshi.  After taking promise from Yakshi that she would not harm people, he allows her to stay there.  Later, she became famous as Panayanarkavu Yakshi or Parumala Yakshi.
There are many folk tales, quite interesting, about Kathanar and his miracles. People strongly belive that he went to the other world by jumping into a well in the church complex.
road leading to the Kadamattom church
road leading to the Kadamattom church
After taking few pictures we rushed for Eldho’s reception arranged in a school, just near the hotel where we stayed.

Day 2: Syrian Jacobite Christian Wedding

Around 7.30 am Vij and Rajeshattan went to dress Eldho and came back to pick me and Viji at 10 am. I wike up at 10 am and we got ready for the wedding. We reached the chreiyapally (small church) around 11 am on Sunday. The wedding ceremony was going on and we joined others. It is customary that orthodox Syrian Christian women cover their head when they enter the church. So almost all women had covered their heads with their saris.
Priests preaching the couple
Priests preaching the couple
The ceremony took about one hour and we couldn’t attend the first ceremony which had taken place in another church for an hour. No one sat, everybody was standing and the priests were preaching to the couples in Syrian and Malayalam which was accompanied by choir singing. Though I didn’t understand much of it, Viji kept on translating and explaining things to me.
Bride and the groom hearing preaching
Bride and the groom hearing preaching
At last, the couple turned towards us and the bride was beautiful. Viji told me that in most Malayali weddings, the age gap between the groom and the bride will be minimum 10 years. They are very conservative in this. Any guess what is the age gap between this couple???:)
Eldho and Sheela
Eldho and Sheela
Eldho, groom, works in Bangalore and is a friend of Rajeshattan and Vijith. Sheela, bride, works as a nurse in Thuraif, Saudi Arabia.
Priest performing a ritual during the wedding
Priest performing a ritual during the wedding
Though not like Hindu weddings, Syrian Christain wedding has lot of influences from the Hindu culture. Their churches, traditions and customs have derived a lot from our tradition and culture and every ceremony clearly shows it.
Bride and groom
Bride and groom
There are five important ceremonies in Syrian Christian weddings.
1. Kalyanamaurappa: Arranging a match
‘Kalyanamaurappa’ means ‘arranging a marriage’ between the girl and the boy. Once the groom’s family accepts the proposal, male members from the groom’s family visit the bride’s family to fix a wedding date. Both families take a decision that the girl will come to into the boy’s family along with ‘streedhanam’ (wealth of a woman), which can include money, clothes, jewellery or property. Henceforth she will not lay any more claims on her father’s wealth. Once an agreement is reached, the two eldest male members from each family hold hands in a symbolic clasp. An ‘angavastram’ (white cloth) covering their hands, seals the contract. The engagement is announced at the respective churches for three consecutive Sundays in the presence of the community and the families of the bride and groom. On the third Sunday, the bride and groom go to their respective churches for confession and to partake in the Holy Communion.
2. Madhuramvekal: Pre-wedding ceremony
This ceremony is held in the respective homes of the bride and the groom, a day prior to the church wedding. Barring a few differences, the ceremonies are similar.
The groom sits facing the east, while a barber cuts his hair and shaves off his beard. The groom’s eldest sister or female cousin anoints his hair with oil.The groom’s brother-in-law then escorts the groom for his regular bath ensuring that he does this from the westerly direction. The groom returns from the easterly direction, sheltered under an umbrella, held by the brother-in-law. On his arrival, all the ladies clap their hands and cheer him. This is called the ‘korava’, traditionally considered very auspicious throughout Kerala.
In the bride’s home, she is made to wear a simple sari and her brother’s wife performs the rituals of anointing her with oil and taking her for her bath in the same manner as done for the groom. After her bath, the bride changes into a resplendent silk sari, wears traditional jewellery; adorns her hair with flowers and puts on a gold chain with a cross on it.
After the ‘korava’ the bride and groom in their respective homes, heads covered, sit on a chair, which has been covered with a white cloth and are blessed by the priest. A sweet called ‘madhuram’ (banana slices soaked in sweet Palmyra palm juice) is brought to be blessed by the priest. After the blessing, the sweet is given to the bride and the groom by the mother or grandmother.
3. Mantra Kodi: Preparing the’ taali’
The sari, which the groom will present to his bride in church the next morning, is called the ‘mantra kodi’. The night before the church ceremony, strands of thread are drawn from this sari by the groom’s sister and twisted to form a cord. Taali, a leaf shaped gold pendant with a cross inscribed on it, is tied on this cord.
4. Church ceremony: Holy Matrimony
On the day of the wedding, the priest visits each home separately and blesses the bride and the groom. The groom carries the sari for the bride, the ‘taali’ and two wedding bands. After the blessing, the bride and the groom step out of their homes, preceded by a young girl holding a ‘diya’ or lamp. The bride wears cream coloured Kerala sari. In the church the priest officiates and after the sermon, the couple exchange wedding bands. All through the ceremony the bride’s sister stands behind her. Vows are exchanged and the groom ties the ‘taali’ to the bride. During the tying of the ‘taali’, the bride’s sister is replaced by the groom’s sister. The ‘mantra kodi’ is placed on the bride’s head by the priest and blessed. Later, the bride puts the sari on her left hand. The same sari is worn by her for the reception. The couple joins hands and is announced man and wife.
5. Reception: Post wedding celebrations
The reception is a modern day concept, borrowed from the West and is basically a celebration of the wedding. The families involved host a grand dinner and the newly wed couple is introduced to the relatives and guests.
Vij and Rajeshattan
Vij and Rajeshattan
After the wedding we headed towards the valiayapalli nearby, which is famous for a miracle. People say that the priest of this church disappeared after drowning in a well. When people tried to fish out his body, it was not found in the well.

Day 1: In God’s Own Country

Waited for a long time to witness a Christian wedding and it was special because it was a Syrian Christian wedding, that too in the God’s own country Kerala. When Vijith  wanted to take me for the wedding of his friend in Kolenchery in Kottayam I was more than happy.
Rivers meandering past the houses and paddy fields, exchanging pleasentries with the people washing clothes, the long regiments of coconut trees giving an impression of guarding the endless stretch of paddy fields flashed in my mind.
We reached Kottayam around 9 am in the bus last Saturday, travelling almost 12 hours from Bangalore, and took a room at Indraprastha hotel to freshen up, while Rajeshattan and his wife Viji headed towards their home. After eating Masala Dosa (they called it so) I thought how good our Masala dosas are in Karnataka.
Waiting for Rajeshattan to turn up, I had a naqp in the room and at last, the couple arrived around 2 pm.
Leaving the hotel, we went to see CMS College, the oldest college in Kottayam. Founded by the Church Missionary Society of England in 1817, it is the oldest of the institutions for higher education in South India. Rajeshattan and his parents studied in this college and Rajeshattan became nostalgic about his college days.
The college looks like a traditional Kerala house and the campus is considered to be one of the most natural campuses in Kerala. The different departments are housed in separate blocks, a unique feature of the college. With neatly laid out roads and lawns, the college campus sprawls in about 35 acres.
clean road inside the college campus
clean road inside the college campus
Recently, Malayalam movie Classmates was shot in the campus.
At present, the College is affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam.
CMS COllege, Kottayam
CMS COllege, Kottayam
The alumni of the college include former President of India Dr K.R. Narayanan, formulator of Indian foreign policy K.P.S. Menon, former ambassador to China Sardar K.M. Panicker, renowned physicit Dr E.C.G. Sudharshan, former judge of the Supreme Court Justice K.T. Thomas, chief editor or Malayala Manorama K.M. Mathew, former chief minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy and others.
About eight acres of the campus is maintained as a forest, which houses a large variety of plants and animals. This patch of forest with its rich bio-diversity acts as the lungs of the town.
Rev. Benjamin Bailey was the first principal of The College, COTTYM, as it was called and spelt then.
Earlier, the curriculum included the study of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Mathematics, History and Geography besides English, Malayalam, Sanskrit and Syriac. In 1838, the college was shifted to the wooded hillock, the present site, commanding views of the distant Western Ghats. Rajeshattan remembered told us that one of the oldest buildings in the campus is Room 52 or “Grammar School” as it was named then.
The college provided free education to all the students until 1855 when the fee of 1 rupee a month began to be collected from each student.
Today, the college has 14 departments with 47 courses and six research centres.
Was feeling damn hungry and we headed towards Family Toddy Restaurant. The hotel on the roadside with a dhaba look was crowded. Rajeshattan told us that the place is famous for kallu (toddy) and families visit the place to drink it. Even women don’t mind to savour it! The smell of fish curry was so much that we were forced to sit outside for the lunch. Not that they are not used to it, but I was not used to it. The smell was unbearable for me. Came to learn from Rajeshattan that families take pictures standing outside the hotel and women don’t hesitate to pose for the camera in front of a kallu shop (he pronounced it as ‘shaap’, the typical Malayali pronunciation of the shop).
ducks in the backwaters
ducks in the backwaters
After hearing so much of, wanted to see the menu and worried if there will be only kallu to drink and fish to eat in the place and nothing else for me!
Karimeen fry
Karimeen fry
The person came to take the order, and then went the list from Rajeshattan to him – Kallu,  Karimeen (Karimeen is known as Pearl Spot in English and is found in abundance in the warm, brackish waters of the lakes and backwaters of Kerala and is considered a delicacy by fish lovers), Taravu (duck), Kappa (tapioca), Chicken, Kallappam and Palappam.
Karimeen or Pearl Spot Fish
Karimeen or Pearl Spot Fish
They got the kallu in an earthen pot, kept in the fridge. The drink looked like buttermilk and after my hubby forced me to taste it, I just took a sip from his glass and it tasted like a mixture of buttermilk and tender coconut. It tasted well and I didn’t want to take any risk by having it, as I never drink alcohol.
palappam
palappam
 I liked Kappa and chicken fry and tasted little Taravu and Karimeen for the first time in my life.
kappa
kappa
Rajeshattan told me that duck is considered to be cold and chicken hot for our body.
The place is best known for its toddy and karimeen curry and I came to know that they wash the fish with vinegar and salt to avoid the smell. And the fish really didn’t smell fishy! The best part came when the bill came and a single Karimeen fry was ONLY RS 200! The same will be available at other hotels for less than Rs 75, but with the fish smell. There goes the secret of this toddy shaap. Ask in the market for 1 kg Karimeen and you will get it for less that Rs 175! After the lunch, we went to the house of Paapi (Rajeshattan’s childhood friend) to pick him for the wedding along with us.
house seen on the other side of the backwaters from the house of paapi
house seen on the other side of the backwaters from the house of paapi
It was on the banks of a river provided a perfect background for our photograph.
Paapi and Rajesh
Paapi and Rajesh
Later, we went to Motel Aaram in Vaikom on the Vembanad backwaters. Near to the hotel is the famous Vaikom Memorial.
rajesh, his wife Viji, me and Vijith
rajesh, his wife Viji, me and Vijith
The Vaikom Satyagraha was the first systematically organised agitation in Kerala against orthodoxy to secure rights of the depressed classes. No mass agitation in Kerala acquired so much all-India attention and significance in the twentieth century as the Vaikom Satyagraha.
Vaikom Memorial Hall
Vaikom Memorial Hall
Vaikom is a small town on the eastern banks of the backwaters of Vembanad Lake.
Fishermen in the Vembanad Lake
Fishermen in the Vembanad Lake
The town is famous for its Shiva temple, which in the early twentieth century was the citadel of orthodoxy and casteism. And we couldn’t visit it. As was the custom prevalent in those days, the Avarnas were not allowed to enter the temples. But at Vaikom , they were not permitted even to use the public roads around the temple. Notice boards were put up at different spots prohibiting the entry of Avarnas reminding them of their social inferiority. All the more unbearable to them were the fact that a Christian or a Muslim was freely allowed on these roads. An Avarna had to walk through a circuitous route, two to three miles longer to avoid the road beside the temple.
Fishermen busy catching fish in the Vembanad Lake
Fishermen busy catching fish in the Vembanad Lake
Saw a few lorries filled with sand and other vehicles being ferried to the other side of the Vembanad Lake. Rivers and backwaters in Kerala are like our state highways and national highways. People still use waterways to move from one place to another using small canoes or motor boats.
While the trio indulged in their drinking session in the motel, I kept myself busy in capturing the dusk engulfing the vambanad Lake and fishermen spreading nets. I was fortunate enough to see a water snake moving fast in the lake but it missed my lens.
We headed towards Eldho’s place and on the way saw some religious procession on the road.
A religious procession
A religious procession
After travelling for around one hour, we reached Hotel Lovedons in Kolenchery and checked in to an A/C room, as the temperature was very high. By the time a gang of Anglo-Indians, Eldho’s friends in Bangalore, reached the hotel. We took bathed and freshened up, got a call from Eldho and we headed towards his house. The ceremonies were over by the time we reached his house and we met his relatives and family members.
Had a nice dinner and the menu had chicken, rice, moru kolambu, beef and upperi. Met a relative of Eldho whom Viji  called as Ammachi. She was too talkative and she asked my hubby if I was his daughter studying in college. We left the place around 12.30 am, promising them that we would go for the wedding the next day by 10.30-11 am.
Rajeshattan and Vij were supposed to go to dress Eldho by 7.30-8 am the next day…