By Wayne McHugh
I just recently had the opportunity, while traveling in India on business, to carve away 48 hours and experience the natural wonder of the famous backwaters on a kettuvallam (Kerala houseboat) in Alleppey, referred to as the “Venice of the East”. It has a large network of canals that meander in and around India’s longest lake, Vembanad. For those not in the know, this is in the in the southern state of Kerala and is referred to as God’s Own Country. Accompanying me on this adventure was my friend and co-worker who also happens to be Ganart’s CTO, Safir Salihu, who grew up in Kerala and provided information, history and a seamless channel to ask our crew any question I had.
Venice of the East
The physical beauty an lushness of this tropical area was equally matched by the diversity of the wildlife all around us. Woven into this pristine setting were entire communities and commerce. Mile after mile, on either side of us were riverbanks.
Barely 10-20‘ wide in most sections, they held small homes on one side and small businesses on the other including eco cottages for tourists, small supply stores and even an ice cream bar! It was amazing seeing small children, dressed in school uniforms, marching in procession along the banks to one of several water taxi stops which ran with extreme efficiency. Their commute was a lengthy one, but all were excited (so it seemed) to be heading to school. Beyond the houses, on the other side of the banks were paddy fields as far as the eye could see. Along another canal, we saw the remnants of 2,000 acres of over-farmed coconut and cinnamon tress. It looked like something out of a Stephen King novel with equally haunting stories.
Ice Cream and Red Bull
While cruising in the afternoon heat, a small skiff motored up to us with an industrious young man pitching goods for sale. Opportunity commerce at its finest! Believe it or not I picked up some mango ice cream (my favorite) and had to buy a Red Bull….yes, Red Bull on the backwater which almost seemed like a contradiction. But then again, how many people are you going to meet that can say they bought and drank a Red Bull on the backwaters of Kerala?
As evening approached, we decided to buy rather than catch our dinner. We stopped at an area with several small storefronts which were grouped together and went shopping. We decided on prawns and redfish to be the main course.
The size of the prawns were amazing. Coming from New England, at very first glance, they looked liked a very small chicken lobsters. After picking up our main course and some soft-drinks, we found our docking space which also happened to be the home of the houseboat owner. Later, we sat down for our feast, cooked at the spice level locally consumed, after much convincing from Safir that I actually welcomed the spiciest they could bring. Red fish in curry sauce, spicy fried shrimp, local vegetables, fried plantains and naan. Spicy, delicious and very filling.
While sitting back after dinner and looking at the photos we took, including those of the prawns, we drew a comparison of the prawn being mistaken for a lobster. The comparison involved our Money Earned product (as it usually does). Often mistaken as loan or an advance, we have used other comparisons while educating businesses, such as if a loan is a duck, we are more akin to a swan and so on. While this trip was an amazing little adventure half way around the world, it’s funny that no matter where and what you experience, it is all relatable no matter where you live or what you do.
So, the four things I took back or rediscovered:
- The backwaters of Kerala are amazing and bucket-list worthy for a visit.
- Red Bull is everywhere
- A prawn is not a lobster, no matter how big
- Money Earned…is still not a loan.
Hope you enjoy the photos!