Around you, wherever you look, you see a vast expanse of backwaters. Far away, in a distance, you see skyscrapers dotting the skyline. We are at Kadamakudi - one of the many backwater islands that dot the waterscapes.
It is in these backwater islands, far away from the city, that life is lived to its fullest. While it is unlikely that a city dweller will lend his car to a neighbor for use, the boats tied-up in front of the island’s houses are used by all. And if tea or sugar is suddenly found to be in short supply, there is scarcely a need to travel long distances by ferry and bus; you just drop in at your neighbor’s for replenishment.
These backwater islands are so near, yet so far for the people of Kochi. There used to be those boats that used to bring tourists to these backwaters. However, the influx of tourists from other states has diminished after the Chennai floods. A boat from a night party lies abandoned on the jetty like a relic from the past. A critical evidence as drugs were seized from party revelers.
Sandbank and the birds
A new sandbank has formed for a distance of a quarter kilometer from the island. Birds, especially cranes, roost here during the day. During high tide, this sandbar poses a risk. Water flows over it and if the boat driver does not know of this, there is a chance that his vessel may hit this sand bar. A red flag in the ground is the lone indicator of the dangers. Regular boat drivers know about the sandbank and steer their boats with extra caution. Boats arranged by the Tourism Department as part of its ‘Hop On - Hop Off’ project lie idle in Bolgatty Marina. The local folks resort to ferry boats and the foreigners to boats arranged by their hotels. The ‘Hop On - Hop Off’ does not see many takers which is sad. You will see a lot of boats in various stages of decay on the banks of the river at Mulavukadu.
These islands are home to some ancient places of worship. Temples and churches abound and festivals and feasts are celebrated with gusto, which is quite unseen in the city. These religious places see visitors from the town too. The backwater resounds with the chants and devotional hymns floating in with the breeze. Singing, not just of boat songs but all kinds, is integral to the solitary life of the islands. The other side of their wholehearted dedication to song is that at times the singing frenzy culminates in skirmishes. Ample proof is the board in a Kadamakkudi toddy shop which proclaims that foreign liquor and singing is prohibited. Singing gets competitive and invariably leads to fistfights, according to the shop owner Johny.
An astonishing building that reaches for the skies in front of the picturesque backwater sights is the Lulu Convention Centre and five star hotel. The building construction is over and the interior work is in progress. This building will undoubtedly be Kochi’s landmark in the future.
So near, yet so far
Thanthoni Island is near to the city, yet so far away. This place remains frozen in time, laden with stacks of prawn. A bridge is still not a reality here. People ferry across from the island to far away Mulavukadu and take the bus from there.
Any person facing a medical emergency in the night will have to be physically carried on to the boat, ferried to the shore and taken to hospital from there. Survival in such cases depends heavily on the patient’s good fortune. There are many such islands in Kochi. Kadamakkudi is not approachable by bus. You paddle the boat up to Pizhala or Vaduthala and board the bus from there. Fiber and wooden boats adorn the front yard of each house like Maruti cars. The Panchayat runs a small ferry service too.
But gradually, this is changing. Beautiful houses are coming up in the sprawling Mulavukadu Island. Even outsiders buy land here and build houses. A celebrity singer’s new house is a case in point.