Thursday, March 02, 2017

A Touch Of Paradise

'Kakkathuruthu', an island on the Vembanad lake in Kerala has hit the international spotlight when it was featured in the National Geographic story, 'Around The World In 24 Hours'

Photos: Marco and Valerie Ferrand of France. Pics by Albin Mathew

By Shevlin Sebastian

Marco and Valerie Ferrand of France lean back, while sitting on a boat, on 0a recent Wednesday evening. The scene is serene: On the Vembanad lake, 18 kms from Kochi, the water is placid. There is a deep silence, except for the soft sounds of the paddle used by boatman Shaji. The sun has set. But twilight is yet to come in. All around, there are small islands.

Last week, we were in the Meenakshi Temple at Madurai,” says Valerie. “It was so noisy, but fun: the drum beats, large crowds, and the joyful smiles on the faces. So, this is the perfect environment for my husband and I to recover.”

After an hour's ride, the boat returns to Kakkathuruthu (Island of crows). The place hit the international spotlight when it was featured in the National Geographic feature, 'Around The World in 24 hours': one exotic place is featured for every hour (See link:

And for 6 p.m. National Geographic editor George W Stone wrote:
'Sunset in Kerala is greeted by a series of rituals. Here, on Kakkathuruthu, a tiny island in Kerala’s tangled backwaters, children leap into shallow pools. Women in saris head home in skiffs. Fishermen light lamps and cast nets into the lagoon. Bats swoop across the horizon snapping up moths. Shadows lengthen, the sky shifts from pale blue to sapphire, and the emerald-fringed 'island of crows' – the Malayalam name for this sandy spot along the Malabar coast – embraces night.'

In December, 2015, George had stayed, with a couple of friends, at the Kayal Island Retreat, at one end of Kakkathuruthu. “I had no idea George was going to write about the place,” says resort owner Maneesha Panicker. “But once the item appeared, [in October, 2016] it went viral.” And the resort has been house-full ever since.

Kakkathuruthu is similar to many islands in the area. There are numerous coconut trees, wildly growing grass and plants, and, in between, several small houses. Around 350 families or a total of a thousand people live on this 4 km long island, with a width of one km. “They are primarily fishermen, farmers and labourers,” says Shantha Panicker, Maneesha's mother.

There is a government ferry at one end. At the other end, there is a man who runs a boat privately. The charge is Rs 5 one way. “To go to school, hospital, see a film, or get provisions, they have to go to the mainland by boat,” says Shantha.

But the people don't mind. Sindhu Thirumeni, 38, a classical singer, says, “We like it here. There is no pollution, no crowds, no noise. And it is such a healthy place to live.”

And they eat healthy, too. At one side there is an organic farm. “And now, our island has become famous,” says a smiling Sindhu. “We feel good about it.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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