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Sunday, 4 April 2010

Kidnapped on Mararikulam fishing beach

Impressions of India: 6

I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, through Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

Please do take a moment to log and/or e-mail me your reactions and comments? Given the slow upload speed, each post takes around 3 hours straight to get online (not counting image-selection and -editing time), and knowing that lots of you are reading and enjoying it will add great fuel to my fire!

It's always, photographically, a great thing to be up and out at dawn, particularly if there's fishing business happening nearby. This was the case on the white sands of Mararikulam beach, some 8km north of Alleppey - one of several places known as the 'Venice of the East' thanks to its many vivid green canals, carpeted with water-hyacinth, also known as African moss or Nile cabbage.

The fishermen didn't, at first, seem too happy to see me - another nosey, gawping tourist with a huge camera trained on them. I got a fair few dirty looks but persisted, with many a determined smile and 'namaste' and, as I moved along the beach looking for harmonies, several started warming up and smiling back. 

I wouldn't want to bring home the nets on one of these flat rafts in a stormy sea.
I love the contrast between this fisherman's braced stillness, watching/waiting for a (particular?) boat to come in, & the frothing waves. He stood, stock still like that for a good 10-15 minutes before his patience was rewarded.
And this was the moment I met my 2 kidnappers, Mira and Sandra, best friends from the beachside fishing village who were off school as 'it's exam time'. With much hand-pulling and giggling, they insisted I come with them to see their homes. 
The girls put the television on as we arrived in Sandra's house, for my greater entertainment, and then danced enthusiastically to the tunes coming out of it.
Things didn't look particularly hygienic in the kitchens (though that was probably partly the effect of the unpainted monsoon-damage wall stains) which meant I had a moment's serious indecision when the children pressed upon me a glass of specially-fetched water and piece of sweet jaggery pancake. But I decided it would be too rude not to have at least a couple of sips and bites and, in the event, finished the tasty pancake. And, though I kept a careful note of any stomach-rumblings in the days that followed, all was clearly well.
My girls just couldn't get enough of being photographed, posing with umbrellas and hats, and in different cuddle-configurations with their many friends who came running to join us and drag us off to their homes too. Hopefully I'll find time to edit and print up a good batch of the cute pictures that resulted, and give them to them, along with some fishing shots, in a little album to keep. 
This is Mira's granny, who looked sadly tired and resigned.
Most of the houses had just one bedsitting room with a kitchen, though a few had a second, bare-floored room with some shelving/cupboard space in too.

It's an India-wide tradition to hang photos of dead relatives, with fresh garlands, on the wall as a mark of respect. These are the grandparents of the house. 
The village houses tended to look a lot smarter on the outside than the in,
and the women I met there were gently charmed and amused by the children's trust in me.
Around 9am, as I returned Pied Piper-style to the beach, Sandra introduced me to her parents who were still sorting out the small catch of their day. 

Posts still to come: 

Alleppey and its backwaters
My serendipitous ladies-only-carriage train ride from Varkala to Trivandrum
Life and death in Trivandrum's big outdoor market
The seductive sea-sunsets of Kovalam
Varkala's grin-inspiring temple festival
A train, 2 planes and a sleeper bus, from Varkala in Kerala to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
One musical, 1 contemporary, 1 suddenly-abandonned, and 2 Stone Age-style mud-hut villages in the Thar Desert
Magical Jaisalmer Fort


  1. Photos are getting better and better.
    Excellent beach/fishing scenes and some great shots in the (Tiger) reserve.
    Lovely portraits of individuals too.

  2. how special to hang out with Mira and Sandra. Loved the fishing scenes too...particularly the one with the men altogether (composition?); the solitary man; and the black and white one of the man smiling (mind you, any photo of a handsome man smiling has my vote!)

  3. That looks like a thouroughly refreshing beach. Well done for persevering with the fishermen, there's a definite feeling of industrious inhabitants - in balance with their environment.
    The two girls are very charming and the relationship you've built with them in such a short space of time clearly shines through.
    It's really quite restorative to see such an unspoiled beach; no RinGo trips or sun loungers cluttering the experience.

  4. Anita Teesdale said...

    They are all lovely, particularly this latest, lots of wonderful photographs, WELL DONE & DOING

  5. Dear Cathy, so lucky to find your pictures of Marari Beach. Shame we did not meet when you were here. We live on Marari and share your look at the fisherman's life. Amasing catches of simple life here. Is it possible to see more from this part of your journey?