There is something about Kochi that makes foreigners throng to the city. Maybe it is the old-world charm, the archaic Portuguese buildings and churches, or the beaches that add to their fascination. I think nowhere in Kerala can you find this unusual blend of so many cultures and ethnicity, the modern and traditional merge comfortably here. Take the Jew town for instance with their quaint shops around Synagogue Lane, antiques, carvings, and vintage collectibles, that sits cozily alongside Kerala crafts and aromatic spices. Only in Fort Kochi can you see such an array of laid-back outdoor cafes and artsy eateries, a few are inside heritage buildings, serving the local and international specialities.
But it is also true that there are so many unexplored little gems in and around Kochi, and one such tiny island is Nedungad, sitting right in the middle of backwaters. It is near Vypeen’s Nayarambalam and today it is more familiar as the location of Mammootty’s Madhuraraja.
You must bypass 6 small bridges and get into ferry boats to reach this lazy little village surrounded by the Vembanad lake. You can see a lot of prawn farming and fishing in here. The few tourists who visit here though are more curious to see the place where Madhuraraja was filmed.
There are different ways to reach Nedungad. We (along with a friend) came by bike and took the Paravoor-Nayarambalam route. As we drove through a tiny bridge, we were greeted by the sight of paddy fields, middle-aged men gossiping in front of tea shops and children playing football. The villagers seem to be so far away from the hustle and bustle of a city and content in their little world.
I would say the high point of this trip was the long stretch of road from the boat jetty to the village. The scenery on either side is fascinating complete with prawn farms and beautiful greenery, flowers, palms, coconut trees and tiny fishing boats quietly moving in the lake.
It was amusing to watch cranes and sparrows patiently waiting for their feed near the prawn farms. Is there a more inspiring sight for a painter than fishing boats resting in the backdrop of the setting sun? I noticed that a few are even trying a hand at fishing.
Long ago, this lake used to ferry a lot of boats that carried people and containers. Even the then King of Kochi used to travel this way to Alleppey. This lake where the Vembanad lake merges also known as Veeran lake has Nedungad on one side and other villages like Kadamakudi, Ezhikara and Varapuzha on the other side.
All you wanted to know about prawn farming
Baby shrimps are deposited inside the pond. The water depth in the pond is maintained at 50 to 100 cm height level, while water levels about 90 cm is recommended. 20 to 30% of water is exchanged every 7 to 10 days and in the first 30 days of the culture period, avoid water exchange. Most of these babies used for farming either die of some disease or are eaten by birds. Farmers make up for the loss by including shrimps and other fishes in their prawn farms.
During the ocean flow, the water rises in the lakes and during this time using sluice facility (thoompu), the lake water flows into the prawn farms, where fishes also slip inside. The ponds are constructed with earth walls (or dikes) to hold water about 100 to 150 cm deep. Stocking of animals is done at 10 to 15 prawns per square meter with fresh diets or with supplementary feeds or in some cases both. Harvesting is usually carried out after 100 to 120 days after stocking. During every harvesting, the farmers resort to this traditional method of farming and to lure the fishes into the thoompu they also hang Koodu vilakku or lamps near it. In fact, during the evenings, it’s a beautiful sight - these little lamps shining in the backdrop of lakes.