Here I am …in Kerala again, this time in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of the state.
My connection with Kerala dates back in 1994, when I had traveled across the country to the south of India (Chennai) for my higher studies. Away from home for the first time and encountering a language barrier I was extremely apprehensive if I could sustain and complete the tenure of studies. I was pleasantly surprised by the way my Malayali classmates welcomed me to their group. Being different both socially and culturally we vibed well. The warmth that they extended to me still lasts as valued friendships. Possibly this is the reason why I get pulled back time and again to this state.
Mine is a cherished companionship but this narrative is about a different level of friendship . It’s about 3 distinct identities with a completely different set of characteristics, bonded till eternity. Frivolous, Sombre and Wild ….. They don’t match, do they? Yet they have been friends since ages and nothing seems to be able to break this bond.
Historians say that Kerala gets its name from Keralam, “Kera” (coconut) and “Alma” (Land) in Malayalam meaning The Land of Coconut. Popularly known as God’s own country, this name was coined during the 1980’s by Mr. Walter Mendez, Creative Director of a reputed Ad agency in India on request of Kerala tourism department with an intention to give the state, global recognition as a tourist destination.
Despite being there on work, I squeezed out time and with the help of my friends, set forth to explore a new destination. It was a picturesque coastal village in the Southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) called Poovar
A quick surf through Google and I gathered that it was named by The Maharaja of Travancore ,Raja Marthanda Varma who was fascinated by the sight of red flowers, blooming along the Neyyar River. The flowers fell into the river making it look so attractive that he ended up naming the river as “POO-AAR” (meaning a stream of flowers) which later became “POOVAR”
The journey from Trivandrum along with my friend took me 40mins during which we covered a 30 km stretch through the rustic village roads. On reaching the boat jetty, we hired a motor boat for one and half hours and set sail along the Neyyar river towards the estuary. As the boat cruised, the boatman (Cheta as I called him, meaning big brother in Malayalam) took a diversion and steered into the narrow canals. A regular looking ride suddenly looked enigmatic. Dense mangroves, wild trees, shrubs and coconut groves, it was a fascinating world. !! I was told that some scenes of the famous Hollywood movie Anaconda were shot here.
The interplay of light and shade through the thick foliage, the reflection of trees over the clear water and the tranquility of the surroundings made the journey mysteriously attractive. The only sounds I could hear were of rustling leaves and occasional chirp of birds. To add to the plot, Cheta showed us green mangoes and juicy pineapples, which to any onlooker would look like normal fruits but were apparently poisonous. Poisonous? Looks could be so deceptive, you see!
Poovar is a haven for migratory shore birds and I sighted a few like the Cormorants, Snake Bird, Strokes, Brahminy Eagle and Kingfisher. Cheta was very patient and positioned the boat closest to the birds for better view and photography but silly me hadn’t carried the DSLR, so had to satisfy myself with average pictures taken on my phone.
Narrow canal with trees arching and forming a canopy over the water leading on to coconut trees stretching out and kissing the waters… it felt a different world unfolding with every turn. I had never witnessed something so alluring like this.
The river widened to form a lake before it merged with the Arabian Sea. On the lake were few floating restaurants and Cheta took us to one of them for lunch (guess he had a “setting” here as we were not allowed a choice of restaurants). We were told that food would be made ready by the time we reached back from the beach, which was a great way to optimize time.
The Golden Beach as it’s called, beckoned me. Without wasting much time, we sailed towards the sandbar, a thin sandy strip of land separating the calm lake and the restless sea. An interesting sight indeed! At one end of the water channel (estuary), I could see the waves crashing (the boat was not allowed to go till that point due to high tide). On the other side there was a beach overlooking the sea which was clean and quaint.
We strolled for some time admiring nature’s creation all around us before heading back towards the restaurant where piping hot lunch was waiting. On the way back, I had a view of the huge statue of a Mother Mary and Elephant rock. We were running late and had to finish the meal in haste before we set sail again but this time on a different route.
Instead of going through the canals, the boat took us straight on the wide river passing the floating cottages. The return journey was much faster and without any halts. In no time, we returned to the boat jetty and bid good bye to Cheta and set forth for the city.
I relaxed in the car reflecting about the day and smiled, I had discovered a new place and a new story. The tale of 3 friends bonded by a quirky relationship in a magical land.
A fun loving and mischievous Neyyar River originating from the Agastya Mala hills in the Western Ghats; a relatively serious and calm Poovar Lake and the boisterous, wild Laccadive Sea (of Arabian Sea).It was the story of Neyyar who left her mountain home in order to explore life. Full of energy she meandered through valleys and forests till she reached the southernmost point of Kerala. There she found herself in a different land, a land she was not accustomed to but was warmly greeted by Poovar and Laccadive who accepted her into their midst. Both were of a different nature, one cool headed and the other was riotous, but there was something that bonded them all together. Was it destined? Maybe!!
They met, they clicked and they still continue this friendship …. Seems like my story which played out decades ago when I traveled across the country to the south of India.
Read about another friendship story on a beach setting Post Cards from KRABI