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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: