Half an hour into the drive, we were still worming through a clutter of fuming vehicles at a toll plaza on the state highway just within 5 km from the airport. Wet roads indicated it had rained lately and the driver made sure the car got an earthy makeover as he had to plunge it into big puddles to circumvent his raging competitors. Weather had vastly changed too. The sun had come out and I started sweating as though I saw an end-semester question paper cramped with those little boxes and instructions in the footer reading, “Answer within the boxes only.”
The Seat-Sharing Speculations
My wife must be either a smart cookie who had rushed ahead of me to take the left side of the car knowing we were going to travel south on an afternoon or has the uncanny knack of simply leaving it to my instinct of always going to the right side of a car owing to my perennial habit of driving for the dear ones. Either way, I was geographically cursed for the ride. Excluding my moving to the front seat that would seem cold and detached for a weekend honeymoon, a simple solution would be to move to the center, closer to her, but then fellow bikers, who originally used tinted windows to style their greasy hair or do a self-dental examination, nowadays liked to peek inside and even stare for some time, especially when there’s a newlywed seated inseparably.
Bearing a lean build all my life has seldom helped me during seat sharing. I’ve always hated center seats, and with people on either side waging a silent war by crushing me on account of arm-placing conflicts, my shoulders would shrivel and hoist looking like I am riding with a paralytic shrug. And not to mention the lumpy footrests running underneath resting my feet on which would only make me look as though I were suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. And sitting with legs wide open would somehow make me feel critically exposed, particularly if the driver snapped on to a violent gear-shifting groove. While this car had an acceptable center lump, there were these seat belt buckles sprouting out of the seat lining on either side. It could look like two electrodes pinned to an onion that was me. Hence, I stayed where I was, alternating between folding my hands like a humble producer during a movie launch and covering my face with one hand as would an accused evading news cameras. However, an occasional smile from her and those kind words, “Do you want to switch seats da? I can handle the sun” cooled me down to an extent where I could stop whining about the heat and start visualizing the lush backwaters in hypnotic splashes.
Breakneck Beast and Backwater Beauty
Bored of being bored, I turned on the Google Maps and entered our destination, counting down the distance from our current location every second. I love navigation. It gives me the thrill of watching a live event that I am part of. The driver did well to stay on the same path saving me the agitations as a stranger to the place. But the weather was greatly changing between sunny and overcast with slanted rains slashing against my side. Although, I loved the sound of the pattering, I couldn’t open the window to let the chill breeze tousle my hair. The one time I tried doing that I heard the driver saying something in Hindi including the words, ‘Nigh, nigh, nigh, ‘Car’, ‘Paani’, ‘Smell’, ‘Andhar’, ‘Aatha’ that sounded more like an immediate caution amid the linguistic tension.
The route after a while just got more scenic as we crossed several bridges over gorgeous backwater canals. We enjoyed the postcard beauty of their stillness with coconut trees lined on either side. The trees bend towards the waters as though they are the bowstrings being drawn by the envious demons below earth desperately aiming to capture their perennial charms.
Eventually, we cut into the narrow, twisted roads that go round the banks of the waterways. We could see several boathouses and tiny speedboats docked alongside. The driver who had managed to make up for lost time during most of the drive suddenly upped the ante, unleashing the racing beast inside him, and sped the car as if this part of the country were his own race tracks and an imaginary rookie racer just edged past him by flicking the nitro-boost. Or probably, he was just too tired to prolong the dreary drive. He turned blindly at the curves without the slightest heed for the local pedestrians or chickens that always scurry to the middle of the road to get squashed. We had to convince ourselves he was either an expert driver or someone who punished the clients by providing a delivery riddled with defects for being paid poor by his rich employers. I learned from my maps that he had crossed the destination mark already. Coconut Lagoon seemed to be far behind and we were probably heading to the village border for a spectacular car-dive into the depths of Vembanad Lake. I lunged forward and asked him, “Where is the jetty? Have we reached it yet?”
He said, “It’s down this road” and after a while stopped the car in a spot, pointing to a jetty that read, “Government Boat Jetty, Kumarakom”.
I had my doubts, so, I called the number I had, informing them we had reached the jetty. Someone picked up. So the resort existed after all.
The receptionist said, “Sir, you are in the wrong place. You should come to the private jetty. It is called the Kavanattinkara Jetty, which is our own place. We have someone there waiting for you.”
Then I handed over the mobile to the driver and he clarified the directions with her. We backtracked for about 10 minutes and reached the Coconut Lagoon’s jetty where a helper picked up our luggage and helped us into the boat. We were the only tourists in the boat and the driver requested us to sit on either side for the poise. The boat was wide and spacious; we clicked a few pictures as we sailed round a row of vibrant houses into a bigger canal.
Seeing people living on those banks, I felt they ought to be blessed at least in one aspect; the naturally sustainable living. Though it comes with its own hiccups, it otherwise seems so simple and laid-back; free of traffic, of all urban hassles. It just goes with a small-time job, a big family, fish food, ‘Elaneer’, an open bath, and an easy-chair in the backyard to sit and watch those therapeutically flowing backwaters and swaying coconut trees.
Eventually, we reached a point and turned towards a gate that lifted slowly upon our arrival.
It is the entrance of the Coconut Lagoon and definitely one of a kind, at least in my travel experience. No roads lead there; only waterways. A masterstroke, indeed! Time was 3 p.m..