The Sound of Silence in Kerala’s Backwaters

Having lived in Asia for 6 years of my life, I am pretty immune to noise by now. I can sleep through the loudest thunderstorm, I like hearing early morning church bells or the Call to Prayer, and I barely even notice street noise – no matter how bad others think it is. One of my favourite memories of India is lying in bed listening to frantic festival drumming and firecrackers exploding into the night sky. But every now and then the sound of silence is good for your soul, which, when you live in India, is why you go to Kerala.

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Dipping the oar (a long bamboo stick) rhythmically in and out of the water, our guide – dressed for the climate in lungi, salmon shirt and headscarf – expertly steered away from the banks where we had embarked. With each stroke through the water the buzz and groan of traffic receded, until at last, nothing. Even our excitable conversations slowly ebbed to the pulse of the river’s soothing flow.

Guide in Kerala backwater tour

Once we entered the backwaters, the sounds were minimal: the slush of water slapping against the reeds of the boat, the call of a bird, the buzz of a fly, the rush of wind through grass.

Absolute Silence.

No wonder this region is called ‘God’s Own Country’. In a place as chaotic and noisy as India, even God needs somewhere to call Time Out. I would choose Kerala too.

Backwaters, Kerala

We spent a number of hours cruising the backwaters where we passed active fishing villages, sleepy hamlets and sheltered inlets. Men fished as women scrubbed laundry in the shallows; backbreaking work for each.

Contrasting the slow laziness and ease of our journey, life for the locals is hard. Children splash gleefully in the cooling water, unaware of the existence that awaits them once their too-short childhood passes. I wonder how people here would enjoy our lives of laptops, busy bus commutes and stressful supermarkets. Would they miss the silence, the space, the simplicity? Once thing is certain, most of us could not live the lives they lead for long.

I couldn’t help but recall one of my favourite quotations from ‘The Great Gatsby’ as we ventured deeper into the maze of backwaters.

Gatsby quote, boats against the current

For lunch, we ate thali served on a banana leaf, as is tradition in Kerala. The food was delicious and plentiful, tangy with spices. Our hosts were warm and generous, as hosts always are in India.

Although it is possible to spend a few days in the backwaters, we opted for a single day ride. It was enough for what we needed. I am a city girl after all and I missed the noise.

You can hear how silent Kerala is in my snapchat story: https://youtu.be/VDjeo-SPxDQ

And you can pin it:

the-sound-of-silence-in

Where is the quietest place you have ever visited? Do you like the buzz of the city or the solitude of the country best? Leave me a comment.

Post Author
Runaway Brit

Comments

18 Comments
  1. posted by
    Kiara Gallop
    Sep 17, 2016 Reply

    This is such a good piece of writing 🙂 Kerala was already pretty high up on my travel hit list, but now I want to visit even sooner!

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 19, 2016 Reply

      Thank you! I hope that you get there soon 🙂

  2. posted by
    Bryony Clapperton (travelsandmore)
    Sep 17, 2016 Reply

    I think I’d probably opt for the one day your myself. It sounds incredible cruising and getting a glimpse into people’s lives. I’m really interested in travel in India so will be checking out your other content. Thanks for a great post!

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 19, 2016 Reply

      Are you planning to visit India soon? It really is a unique country, there is nothing like it anywhere else, and I certainly think you learn a great deal about yourself when you travel in India!

  3. posted by
    Punita Malhotra
    Sep 17, 2016 Reply

    Love your narration and expression. It was a refreshing change reading about an experience rather than facts and information.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 19, 2016 Reply

      Thank you, I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

  4. posted by
    Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures
    Sep 17, 2016 Reply

    Gorgeous photos! I do love the buzz of the city (I’ve been a city girl all my life and I don’t think I could ever life too far away from one) but I do need a bit of quiet time at the end of the day.

    You’re lucky you’re so used to noise, though! We had a massive thunderstorm the other day (I’ve seriously never experienced anything like this here in the UK), and it was so loud none of us slept all night.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 19, 2016 Reply

      I would really struggle to live out in the countryside, but I do love to visit. Yeah, noise just isn’t an issue for me – I usually sleep through everything!!

  5. posted by
    Amanda Williams
    Sep 19, 2016 Reply

    I love this post! It brings back really happy memories of time I spent in Kerala in 1997/98 and I’m so pleased to hear that it doesn’t seem to have changed too much. Thanks for sharing.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 22, 2016 Reply

      I can’t imagine Kerala changing even in the next hundred years!

  6. posted by
    Sarah from Tales From a Fork
    Sep 19, 2016 Reply

    I LOVE silence! Seriously, there is so much noise in our lives that the few moments I have utter silence is wonderful. I’ll have to check this place out.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 22, 2016 Reply

      Yeah, I think that silence is seriously underrated, we have so much noise in our lives that many of us don’t know what to do when it’s quiet!

  7. posted by
    Hallie
    Sep 19, 2016 Reply

    I love the imagery with your words. I have to say that I never once found quiet on my month-long trip to India but I also didn’t go here. I think India is worthy of so many more visits and this places sounds like a place to add to that itinerary.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 22, 2016 Reply

      Silence is definitely in short supply in India – even the Himalayas are noisy!

  8. posted by
    Samantha | There She Goes Again
    Sep 19, 2016 Reply

    Such a beautiful description of Kerala. I have to agree living in Korea for 2 years, my tolerance for noise has definitely gone up! This sounds like it’d be my favorite place visiting India, I definitely prefer the quieter areas to the more hectic ones.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 22, 2016 Reply

      Ha ha! Yes, I can imagine that Korea is pretty noisy too!

  9. posted by
    Christina
    Sep 20, 2016 Reply

    Kerala is a little patch of magic in a generally chaotic India. It’s really quite surprising how serene a backwaters cruise can be. It’s a perfect spot to escape and unwind while in India.

    • posted by
      Runaway Brit
      Sep 22, 2016 Reply

      It really is one of India’s gems, it’s so lovely.

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