What’s in a name, one might say, but Kavalipuzha Beach merits attention also for its name. The beach in question is a riverside that borrows its curvy silhouette from the meandering Meenachil River. How a riverside came to be called a beach is an interesting query. But Balakrishnan, who has been paddling on these misty waters carrying passengers across the river for years, says he has no idea about the story behind it. In times like these, when carrier is a buzzword and connotes to the illegal travels of gold and other such things which makes for news every day, this carrier of passengers across the river remains unaffected by the chaos.
Ferrying, as a means of employment, is slowly succumbing to endangerment. Back in the days, it was such an integral part of people's daily lives that it was considered an important job. The boatman was a star in his own right; the hero who transports people who have their hearts in their mouths across the river safe and sound.
Even the great Veda Vyasa, who penned the epic Mahabharata, was the son of a boatwoman Satyavati. The beautiful Satyavati who exudes the scent of fish, had ferried Sage Parashara across the river. The legend goes, when they consummated their relationship, Veda Vayasa was born. He soon left with his father to practice divine meditation, and later became the scholar who penned Mahabharata. There are fabled stories of all the living things of this world getting away on a boat when the proverbial floods raged. There are centuries-old tales of ferries that carried people safely across rivers and seas; the paddlers today are probably the last ones in this link. When bridges started connecting people above rivers, the ones who earned their bread by making way on waters slowly put their paddle to rest. Even though in the book of today’s youth, paddling has lost its meaning to ‘peddling’, this paddler has a lot of new generation visitors.
Take the path that offers a glorious view of the anterior of Kidangoor temple to get to the Kavalipuzha Beach. The pristine waters of the river come into view through the jade greens surrounding it. A hazy board that says something akin to ‘Welcome to the beach’ lies idle. The extensive firm sand on the riverside must have prompted the folks of the town to call it a beach. On the clear waters, a lone boat rests close to the shores. And underneath a sheath of tree branches awaits Balakrishnan.
One can walk by the shores of Kavalipuzha; maybe even take a dip in the shallow waters. The fishermen will always warn you not to go any further than that.
After waiting for a while, a bunch of people who needed to cross the river joined me. The river is shaped as an upturned ‘U,’ and quite amusingly, Balakrishnan uses an upside ‘U’ technique to row his passengers across. He rows upward first. Then, he takes a curve along the path of the river and rows across. Such a scenic view; a wondrous journey on one of the earliest vehicles of the world, cancelling out every other sound but that of water droplets crashing against the oar. Usually, tourists find their way to Kavalipuzha Beach, but passengers on the boat are lesser now owing to the pandemic.
A song in the Malayalam movie ‘Aksharangal’ comes to mind when you see boatmen.
the skies are cloudy as the mind,
who has even seen the other side?”
For cloudy days, Balakrishnan keeps an umbrella behind his seat. As for the other side of the shore, he always sees it. There are two boat services under the Kidangoor village panchayat, one of which is on the Kavalipuzha Beach.
It takes 19 km from Kottayam (around half-an-hour) to reach Kavalipuzha Beach. A ride on the untouched waters of this beautiful river will be one to cherish forever.