The Cochin Cultural Centre: Kalaripayattu

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Performer’s Stage 

Kalaripayattu is a martial art, which originated in Kerala around 1400 C.E. It was developed as a technique to protect humans from animals, and later used in villages to settle disputes and arguments. The loser would die and the winner would survive.

 

 

The Cochin Cultural Centre is one of the remaining six places in Kerala that practices and performs this type of martial art. It involves many gymnastic-like movements: flips, front walkovers, back walkovers, tumbles and more. A variety of weapons are used as well: swords, knives and bamboo sticks. We were fortunate enough to see a demonstration.  My favourite part was the sword fight because I found it really cool how when the swords hit sparks were created. Another aspect of the sword fighting that I enjoyed was how fast the performers could move and block. I also really liked the hand-to-hand combat, as it was amazing to see how fast the performers could get out of some tricky situations. Overall, I found this martial art to be amazingly precise and well timed.

 

 

The Cochin Cultural Centre: Kathakali

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The She-Devil 

Kathakali is a classic Indian play known for the intricate makeup of it’s characters, detailed costumes, fast gestures and perfectly timed body movement, in tune with intense drumming. The makeup worn by the actors (which were all male) was made from crushed rocks mixed with coconut oil. The makeup alone took more than an hour to fully apply for just three characters.  The evil character placed a type of seed from a red flower in his eyes for ten minutes to change the whites of the eyes to red to make him look more demon-like. The costumes consisted of many layers of skirts and pants, each in different colours and with different designs, along with many jewels, bells and elaborate headdresses. Two of the characters, Krishna, and the she-devil, wore very, very wide skirts about 6 feet across, whereas the remaining character was wearing a traditional sari in the colours of red and cream. Kathakali appears to be a mix between miming and acting. There is very little speaking and instead much of the performance relies on body movements and facial expressions. The hand movements reminded me of a sped-up and exaggerated version of ASL (American Sign Language). The movement was perfectly in tune with the drumming, which was very fast paced and loud. There were two drummers and one person that alternated between a tambourine and chanting in Malayalam, the local language of Kerala. The usual length of one performance is 6 to 9 hours, but the one that we saw was only 1 hour and 30 minutes. This short performance was just barely manageable, but I think sitting through a 6 to 9 hour performance would be difficult.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Performers putting on their makeup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Krishna 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Krishna’s Wife 

Fishing in India – Part 3 – My Fishing Experience

My Fishing Experience with my Dad in the Backwaters of Kerala

My dad, a fisherman and I went fishing in a handmade canoe with nets.  The fisherman paddled us about 3 meters from shore and then dropped a large net 5 meters deep by 25 meters long into the water. The net was placed in a straight line and had styrofoam buoys on the top of the net. When fish swim into the net, they got caught and make the buoys move. This movement indicates to the fisherman that he has caught something. The fisherman threw another smaller circular net into the water and it sunk to the bottom about 10 to 15 meters. Ten seconds later, he brought it up. This took a while because the water and the mud from the bottom were heavy. He only caught six fish using this strategy. Then, he brought us to shore because it was going to take some time for the fish to get caught in the larger net. About 30 minutes later, the fisherman went out on his own again and picked up the large net and caught about 40 to 50 small fish. He was excited about his catch and planned to sell these fish for about 300 Indian rupees ($6 CND) the next day.

Setting Out for Fishing in the Backwaters at Night - Scott & Matt

Setting Out for Fishing in the Backwaters at Night – Scott & Matt

Fishing in the Backwaters at Night - Scott & Matt Silloutte

Fishing in the Backwaters at Night – Scott & Matt Silloutte

Fishing in India – Part 2 – Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets – Backwaters of Kerala near Kollam  

The Chinese fishing nets came to Kerala in the 1300s to 1400s from the council of Kublai Khan. These nets sit at the end of the dock about 20 feet out from the mainland. Two long poles act like a neck and there are four other poles that reach over the water with the net attached to the end of each pole so that it looks like a diamond shape. There are weights attached to the end of the ropes that are connected to the top of the Chinese fishing net. These weights act as simple machines to pull the net up and down. There is another rope that is connected to the cone shaped center of the fishing net. When the net is put into the water, the ropes are released and the net drops into the water, with the cone shaped area dropping deeper. The purpose of the cone shaped area is to capture the fish when the net is lifted out of the water. Electrical wires run from the shore and are connected to the frame of the net.  At the top of the net, there are four light bulbs. The fisherman fish at night and use lights to attract the fish (which is illegal in Canada).  This type of fishing is still used quite a bit today in Kerala and will probably continue to be used for a while.

Chinese Fishing Net - Out of the Water

Chinese Fishing Net – Out of the Water

Chinese Fishing Net - Out of the Water

Chinese Fishing Net – Out of the Water

Chinese Fishing Net - About to be Dropped

Chinese Fishing Net – About to be Dropped

Chinese Fishing Net - Dropped In Water

Chinese Fishing Net – Dropped In Water

Chinese Fishing Net - Multiple Dropped In Water

Chinese Fishing Net – Multiple Dropped In Water

 

The Backwaters of Kerala, India

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A small shack on Ashtmundi Lake

My family and I stayed on a houseboat for two days and one night – the 29th and the 30th of November. We left Palm Tree Heritage early in the morning, and started our backwater adventure at 11:30, from the Kollam Port.

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chinese fishing nets on Ashtamudi Lake

The first part of our trip was a three-hour ride through Ashtamudi Lake. On the way we saw many Chinese fishing nets, shoes floating in the water, palm trees, churches, mosques, Hindu temples and weird lighthouses in the shape of a naked lady. About half way through our trip our captain Mohan let Matthew and I steer the boat. The steering was loose, and whenever you left the wheel in one spot, the boat would turn, so I would have to constantly over rotate the steering wheel to remain on a straight course! It was a lot of fun. A little later, while we were watching the beautiful scenery pass by we had a delicious lunch made by our boat’s cook of fried fresh fish, dhal, rice, beetroot salad, carrot salad, coconut potato curry, poppadoms, tomato riata, and pineapple riata. It was amazing food with every dish cooked and seasoned to perfection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Banana tree

Once we had arrived at Monroe Island, we got out of the boat and met the young man that was going to be polling us through some small canals in a canoe. We saw many different types of greenery and wildlife:

  • kingfishers with exceptionally bright blue backs
  • cormorants – similar to the ones that we have in Canada
  • kytes – small bald eagles
  • herons
  • prawns that were being farmed in the brackish backwaters
  • grazing cows that the people who lived in the backwaters owned,
  • pineapple plants – did you know that it takes 6 months to grow one plant and that one plant produces only one pineapple
  • suicide fruit – one of the most poisonous plants in the world
  • papaya trees
  • coconut palm trees
  • vanilla vines growing up the sides of trees.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Suicide fruit

I found it really cool to see how pineapples and vanilla grow, as I had never seen this before. The kingfishers were beautiful, with their exuberant blue backs. We have kingfishers in Canada, but they aren’t nearly as colourful as the ones in Kerala.

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me steering the houseboat

The ride to the place that we were going to dock for the night was rather uneventful, though the lake and shore looked beautiful with the sunset. Once we had reached our space for the night we learned that there was a wedding celebration taking place at the five star hotel across the lake, with fireworks blasting and music blaring all night! We weren’t excited as we were sitting down to dinner, but I cheered up when I remembered that we had A.C., as the pier that we were staying at had an electricity hook-up. Our dinner was amazing, consisting of okra curry, chicken curry, rice and beetroot salad. Hats off to Joseph, the cook, for such delicious meals during our stay!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A really weird lighthouse

 

The next morning I woke up from an undisturbed sleep. I had not once heard fireworks or music! I suppose that they turned down the volume? Who knows? We ferried back quickly, as we had a train to catch to Cochin at 11:15.

Our trip was so much fun, and I loved being so close to such a variety of wildlife. Overall, I extremely enjoyed our time in Kerala’s backwaters, especially the polling in the canoe, and completely recommend the experience.

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A local canoe ferry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of coconut palms

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prawn farming

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A bright blue kingfisher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A pineapple plant

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A heron

 

 

 

Our “Classic Caribbean” Vacation in Kerala, India

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The local fishermen

The first two weeks of our time in India was spent on Odayam beach in Varkala. It was awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from the North Cliff of Odayam beach

We arrived in Trivandrum on the 16th of November from Luxor Egypt. We had left Luxor the previous morning, and had a four-hour stopover in Doha, Qatar. With the time change, we arrived in India very early in the morning, with no sleep. At 5 a.m. we took a one-hour taxi ride to Varkala, a town on the cost of Kerala. When we arrived at the hotel that we had booked, we found out that they had no rooms left. YIKES! As it was still early in the morning, we decided to get breakfast at a café on the beach near by. After we had finished breakfast, we learned that Palm Tree Heritage Café where we had eaten was part of a hotel complex. As we were so tired, we decided to book a room for three days. The only room that was available had one king bed. Thus, sleeping was a little cramped, as my mom, my dad and I were all in the king bed, and Matthew got a twin mattress that was brought in and placed on the floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eating a slice of Lemon Dumping Cake at the New Kerala Cafe

The three days that we had originally booked flew by as we played in the surf and relaxed, and we decided to say eleven more. Our routine was pretty much the same every day: wake up at 6:30 for yoga, have breakfast at 9:30 while watching the local fishermen fish, go swimming from 10:30 to 11:30, do homeschool from 12 to 3, take a break in our A.C. room for an hour (it was about 32 degrees outside, without humidity which was virtually 100% all the time), go swimming again from 4 to 6:30, eat dinner from 7 to 8:30 – Palm Tree’s service was so slow, but the food was great (I highly recommend their chicken tikka), go to bed at 9:30. Some days we changed it up (what!) with heading to town for shopping on the North Cliff, or having a sweet at an amazing bakery, New Kerala Café, that we had found. If you ever get there, try the Lemon Dumping Cake even if the name seems odd.

IMG_1126

Food at Kumari’s House

Half way through our say at Palm Tree Heritage we found a family that had a home kitchen/restaurant that friends of ours had recommended (Shout out to Steve, Ann, Kathleen and Robbie!) called Kumari’s House. We had a delicious thali dinner on banana leaves, which consisted of countless vegetable curries and other dishes, such as plantain curry, okra curry, beetroot salad, carrot salad, and more. The food was amazing, and I loved the atmosphere of the place: a cow in the backyard, tropical trees surrounding me, beautiful flowers, and family pictures hanging on the walls.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The tandoor covering at Palm Tree

The two weeks that we spent on the beach were so relaxing, and enjoyable, that if you ever find yourself in Kerala, I highly, highly recommend staying on Odayam beach in Varkala, for at least a few days. It’s not on the North Cliff and maybe not in the action, but instead it is further up the beach and a more relaxed place!

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Drinking coconut water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A butterfly fish that the local fishermen caught

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A tandoor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bird taking off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Water buffalo grazing outside of our hotel

IMG_1115

Matthew and I playing in the surf

Fishing in India – Part 1 – Ropes and Nets – Odayam Beach, Kerala

Ropes and Nets – Odayam Beach, near Varkala, Kerala

I have never before seen the method of fishing that is used by the fishermen on Odayam Beach. At sunrise every morning, the fishermen use ropes and nets to manually fish from the beach. The size of the net is about 2 kilometers long and 5 meters deep.  The net looks like a giant slingshot because there is a 15-meter rope attached to each side of the net. The first part of the net has holes that are about one foot apart, then the size of the holes get smaller and smaller until they are less than 5 millimeters apart. About 8 men row a large boat from the beach out about 2 kilometers to drop the net in an arch. There were about six men in the water inside the arch of the net and their job is to scare the fish so that the fish will swim towards the top of the arch. At the same time, ten men on each side of the arch begin to pull the net in (some are in the water and some are on the beach).  For at least one hour, they work hard to keep pulling in the nets. Eventually, the fishermen that are in the water pick up the net and the fish that remain in the finer net are carried ashore. Most days the fishermen catch thousands of small sardines and butterfly fish. One day they caught a huge butterfly fish that was worth 2000 rupees ($40 CND). All the fishermen were so excited with this catch. On another day, they caught thousands of small shrimp, one squid, and one jellyfish. The fishermen were very happy. All of the sudden, at least 30 fishmongers appeared and bought all the shrimp, but they did not want the jellyfish. This type of fishing happens two or three times a day except on Fridays because most of the fishermen are Muslim and Friday is their holy day.

Setting the Nets - with Matt

Setting the Nets – with Matt

Pulling in the Nets 2

Pulling in the Nets 2

Pulling in the Nets

Pulling in the Nets

Pulling in the Nets - Close Up

Pulling in the Nets – Close Up

A Catch of Small Fish

A Catch of Small Fish

A Large Catch

A Large Catch

Drying and Mending the Nets

Drying and Mending the Nets

Drying the Nets

Drying the Nets

Fishmongers Arrive!

Fishmongers Arrive!