Kerala’s Backwaters

It’s a relaxing experience to spend two full days on a houseboat at Kerala’s backwaters.  Pampered and fed with delicious Keralan cuisine by Anish, the captain, and Unni, his assistant.  You watch the local way of life: the bus-boats, the school transportation, the fish seller in his canoe announcing his fresh catch, the schoolboy led by an older man across the waters just in time for his school boat, the men bathing, washing, and beating their clothes on rocks.  All surrounded by a lush green tropical forest, coconut, banana trees, and rice paddies.  The backwaters are a labyrinthine network of interconnected canals and rivers that meet the Arabian Sea.  It has a unique ecosystem where freshwater from the river meets the salty water from the ocean.

An exciting culinary event, written by Danna Sigal

“After a delicious dinner of prawns, chicken, rice, and curry, we were relaxing in the comfy chairs of the front deck. The lights were off to discourage mosquitos from snacking on us further, so it was dark. David went to have a sip of a beverage.  As he brought the glass to his mouth, something leaped past his cheek.  Deciding that was probably not the best glass to drink from, David then picked up the other glass, took a drink, but felt something odd…  I brought out my trusty iPhone flashlight as this little guy peeked his head out to say hello.  By the time I got the camera working (there was a lot of excitement), he had already jumped out of the glass.  Here is his portrait, taken near the steering wheel.”

How to deal with health issues while traveling in India?

Traveling in India can be hard on the body, which might also be the case everywhere else, particularly in south India.  The heat, humidity, and mosquitoes are sure to get you some sickness: cold, diarrhea, or skin rash.  Something will happen; it’s unavoidable, and best is to be prepared with medication for the most common ailments.

What is the history of Communism in Kerala?

A century after Bolsheviks swarmed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Indian state of Kerala, home to 35 million people, remains one of the few places on earth where a communist can still dream.  Kerala’s Communist party embraced electoral politics, and since 1957 has been routinely voted into power.  Instead of being associated with repression or failure, Marx’s party is widely associated with considerable investments in education that have produced a 95 percent literacy rate, the highest in India.  In addition to a healthcare system where citizens who earn only a few dollars a day qualify for free heart surgery.

Our experience with Kerala’s politics forced us to leave our floating hotel boat at 5 am because a transportation strike took effect at 6 am.  The communist party, who is NOT in power, was pissed off because they did not like the State Governors’ budget.  There was mayhem in the State Assembly yesterday.  Three women parliamentarians had to fight their way out of the crowd and resort to biting, which sent one man to the hospital to get a tetanus shot.  All reported in detail in the morning newspaper.  Our captain and his assistant sneaked us out on a canoe to a private car, not a taxi, mind you, and through eerily empty roads, we arrived at Kochi, our last stop.