Poovar – Of Mangrove Trees and Hidden Surprises

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Quaint little towns dotted with eccentric houses, sleepy fishing villages gently swaying in the tropical breeze, serpentine backwaters with towering coconut trees, lush mountains peppered with tea gardens and fragrant spices wafting all over; the majestic state of Kerala is the closest I have come to experiencing paradise. For obvious reasons, Kerala is one of the most talked about holiday destinations and internet is swamped with countless pictures of every popular spot in the state. While I was planning my trip to Kerala, I was a little worried that this information overload would scrape off a bit of sheen from my experience. However, when I landed in the rain-kissed, lush green Cochin, I realized that my virtual tour was no match for the sight before me at that moment. Needless to say, my stay in Kerala was serene and picturesque as expected. However, I happened to stumble upon a gem of a place which was not on our itinerary and it convinced me that this state has magic in every nook and every corner.

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My family and I were returning to Trivandrum from an early morning trip to Kanyakumari and Suchindaram temple and were tired and drowsy. Our driver stopped at a fishing village near Kovalam and told us that our trip would not be complete without visiting it. Fresh from our excursions to Munnar and Alleypey, I was unsure about what more this little village called Poovar could offer and thus thought that we could give this is a miss. But my father had different ideas. Having lived in Kerala for a number of years, he has a sentimental attachment to this place and is well aware of its ability to spring unexpected but very pleasant surprises. We agreed to take a boat ride on the backwaters and could not believe our eyes, thus adding one more item in the long list of things I should thank my dad for.

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I felt like someone had taken notice of my wish to visit a Marquezian village and had transported me there. As our boat powered towards the gateway to the estuary, my jaws dropped as we saw mangrove tress flanking the narrow strip of water. Time seemed to have stood still and everything else was forgotten. We sat back and sighed happily as we sailed across the marshy, muddy water and took in the chirping of tropical birds. Every now and then, we would spot a kingfisher or a crane. We passed a few fishermen spreading their fishing nets in the water. As our boat tore through the humid, sultry air, a beach with golden sand appeared before us. I was enthralled as the spirited waves crashed against its pristine, golden shores went back to meet the sea. A few feet away from the beach, stood a rock with an underground church and on the banks, were a few floating restaurants and cottages. We spent around ten minutes sailing around the beach and then the boat turned to return where we had started. It was time again to return to the swampy marshes and muddy water reflecting the shadows of mangrove trees hovering above. For a moment, I felt as if I were in the swamps of Amazon and an alligator would leap out of the murky water. We spent around an hour and a half on the backwaters and with a heavy heart alighted the boat.

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Travelling is not merely checking off exotic places from a list. Travelling is meant to surprise, to astonish, to stir one’s senses. It is a profound way to teach us that the the world is vast and it’s treasures are limitless, much greater than one person and their ambitions and problems. As I was returning from the lake, my philosophical side kicked in. I reflected about how unpredictable life is. I was expecting a quiet ride back and one turn was all it took for me to gather a memory I would treasure all my life. And also, dads are always right!

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Write Write Write

Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Well, truer words were never spoken. Granted, no one sits at a typewriter any more. It is now just a relic of the time gone by is replaced by computers and tablets. But the bleeding still happens and is still as excruciating. In my darker moments, I sometime think that taking a liking to writing and literature is the strangest technique I have adopted to torture myself. It is like a cruel seductress, someone whose mere thought tantalizes the hapless lover and no amount of rendezvous can cure him of his longing.

In the past week, I have made a conscious effort to be regular with writing on this blog. The idea is to devote a few hours to writing and during those few hours, pretend that my life depends on it. I am happy to announce that the results have been as pleasant as the process has been infuriating. Each day, I sit at my computer, determined to write something. I don’t plan beforehand about my subject, letting the glare of my computer screen illuminate my creativity. It turns out that the said illumination is a slow process. Inevitably, I have found myself thinking whether I actually have something to write about or do I just love the idea of writing. I feel like a fleet of soldiers commanded to conquer something but not given the target.

Extended periods of absence from writing has made ideas hard to come by. But in the end, thankfully my love for writing triumphs over the rut in my mind. Maybe a few hours late, but I am able to think of something (however prosaic it may be) and put them into words. I am sure this has happened to all writers (successful and aspiring alike). Maybe the God of writing is a cynical being who paves the path to literary glory with agony and frustration. Maybe the God of writing doesn’t exist at all, who knows. But the idea is to keep writing I guess; honing your skills and stimulating the mind. However vexing this process may be, the end product still gives one a sense of achievement. It is a brilliant thing to look at something that has been created as a result of your thoughts and efforts. The joy of creating is one of the greatest in the world and I am sure the struggle to reach there is worth enjoying too.

When I read “To Kill A Mockingbird”, I was staggered by the ease with which Harper Lee seemed to write. She made it all look so easy. Later I read one of her interviews where she said that a good writer writes to please himself and as a means of endless self exploration. What a profound thought this is. Maybe this is why some people love to write; to discover themselves and give themselves a voice. However exhausting this road to self discovery may be, I imagine it would be endlessly rewarding to finally meet my true self.