Pre-colonial India was a land made up of many small principalities and kingdoms. When we won our independence, our states were constituted primarily by shared language. Each virtually a country in itself with its unique customs and lifestyle. Every state rich with local flora and fauna, and blessed with such uniquely beautiful landscapes, it would be very unfair and impossible to even compare places for either their customs or their natural habitats.
One such state is Kerala, located on the southern end of the west coast of the Indian peninsula. A long narrow stretch of land with an extensive network of backwaters makes this place ideal for agriculture and rubber plantations, besides having abundant resources of freshwater fish. The backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons flowing gently and silently. God’s own country – sounds so apt for such a beautiful destination.
In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to visit Kerala. Fort Kochi to be precise. This time for a conference. A lot of people hate this part of their jobs, but I love conferences – I find they offer many opportunities to network and make new friends.
A fishing village in the pre-colonial era, Fort Kochi is a water bound area. The first evening I walked out of the hotel towards the waterfront, camera in tow. Everywhere you looked it was a sight to behold. As I got ready to take some pictures, a security guard walked over to me. Fort Kochi is a high-security area, and photography is not permitted. Seeing how dejected I was, he told me that it was okay to shoot pictures with my cell phone, but not with my camera. I still haven’t been able to figure this one out but woohoo for Incredible(y) Funny India.
The next day around noon I ventured out again this time to see the fishing community in action. A short 20-minute cab ride got me to the waterfront with many Chinese nets in a row. Also called Cheena Vala, these nets are shore operated lift nets. Outside of China, Fort Kochi is the only place you will see them. These nets make a glorious sight along the backwaters, and I took quite a few shots of the local fisherfolk operating the nets. One of them even walked up to me demanding reimbursement. He was my muse for all of the afternoon.
No trip to Kochi is complete without a river cruise in the evening. And my last day here my conference buddies and I made the most of this customary ritual. The long motorised boat with about a hundred of us set sail around 4 pm. River cruises are a great opportunity to unobtrusively observe the lifestyles of the local communities along the coast. As I sat among my friends, I continually scanned coast for opportunities to take photos. I was also very conscious of the fast changing light on the horizon. Sunsets have always fascinated the photographer in me and I I always look forward to taking photographs of the sun dipping into the ocean.
This picture with its golden light depicts Kerala in its entire essence. The swaying coconut trees, the backwaters, the golden light all make for a mesmerising scape. Not to forget our boat moving gently in the water as I captured a “golden” moment of God’s own country for posterity.