The Backwater People

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Think Kerala, think backwaters. The world’s most fascinating water world, the network of canals, rivers and waterways runs along half of Kerala and is a tourists’ mecca. Imagine golden sunrises, lush green paddy fields, palm leaves dancing in the river breeze, long stretches of silence save for the ripples, pink kissed dusk and night company of stars. Beautiful, right? Probably why even President Barack Obama, the first US president to visit India twice, mentioned the backwaters in one of addresses on a recent visit. And then there are the houseboats – your floating home on the waters, with its windows opening to a moving tapestry of blue and green. Not to forget the backwater people – generations who depend on the water for all their needs, a people seemingly untouched by the ways of time.

Aboard Xandari Riverscapes, our fleet of houseboats crafted the traditional way with jackfruit wood and sealed with fish oil, the backwater people are stars. Here’s why: the houseboats drop anchor for a while and this is when guests get onto canoes and are off for a little adventure in the narrow canals and backwater alleys. And along these waterways live the backwater people, their routines and warm lopsided smiles making for memories.

Here, the waters are the lifeline. From bathing to washing clothes to cleaning utensils, the waters provide for the people. Where no roads exist, the waters carry postmen who drop mail, ferry children to school, make sure the elderly reach service at the local church. The river is kind to palates, too; harvests of pearl spot fish, prawns and mussels fill nets and stomachs. Not to forget gratifying the hobby fisherman, who sits on the bank with a makeshift rod made of bamboo stem and hooked with earthworms as bait. For the people here, the water marks their identity.

On their part, the backwater people are gracious hosts, welcoming of the visitors in their backyard. Be ready to wave till you arms ache; from babies to children and adults, everyone appreciates a good wave! Irrespective of whether they are cleaning their motorcycles, repairing fishing nets or just crossing the river , they’ll have smiles. too. Then there are those who are gracious in that they let you be. Men playing a game of rummy on the banks, the man fishing with a towel, the mother reprimanding a child for going too close to the river, the family engaged in keeping their baby from crying, women cleaning and packing the day’s seafood catch, the lone man lost in his thoughts, the boy drawing on a wall with a faded hammer and sickle symbol – all echo the beautiful tranquility of the backwaters.

So bring your best smiles, may be some candy for the little children and lots of energy to keep waving, the backwater people are waiting.

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