Anniversary Edition, November 2023
by Urmi Chakravorty
A Travelogue by Urmi Chakravorty
As an avid traveller, the allure of the mountains has forever beckoned me. Sea side trips have always figured right at the bottom of my list of must-visits. The crashing waves, the roar of the waters, the sheer rocks sans vegetation - all appear ever so dark and ominous to me.
Our December visit to Poovar and Varkala last year, did well to spark a change of opinion. The seas there appeared largely warm and inviting. And I was pleasantly surprised to realise that our recent trip to Kannur in Kerala, catalysed a new found chemistry between the sea and me. The infinite expanse of grey, teal and emerald staring at me, trying so hard to lure me with its eternal rhythm of rising and falling waves, was hard to ignore.
We booked a resort that was overlooking the sea. This particular stretch of the Arabian Sea was flanked by low cliffs and large moss-slickened boulders. A cluster of towering coconut trees dotted the rocky shores at a distance. As the robust ridge of waves came rushing towards the shore, they crashed and broke on the boulders, sending out a spray of brine and froth. The salty, sulphury smell of the waters compounded by aquatic fauna, algae and weed, gleefully invaded our nostrils. The rolling waves, topped with white foamy crests, hit the craggy beach with a fascinating urgency.
The seascape changed colour every now and then. While dawn broke in with shades of pink, mauve and peach, the setting sun left the horizon aglow with sheets of molten gold. In between, we witnessed the proverbial ‘fifty shades’ of blue with glistening sun sparks encrusted all over. At night, the sea appeared like a gigantic swathe of wrinkled aluminium foil, shimmering under the pearly moonlight.
The morning hours saw a number of fishing boats spreading their colourful nets for a good catch. Every now and then, the fishermen hauled the nets up and emptied them into the boats. Large birds hovered above the boats, swooping down at every opportune moment to scoop up a fish or two. What struck me here was this endearing equation between the fishermen and the birds – it epitomised the home truth that the sea is there to provide for everybody’s survival and subsistence.
On our last day there, we saw a rather curious sight – we saw a few fishermen staying afloat with rubber tyres fixed around their neck. On enquiring, we gathered that they were scouring the waters for shellfish and crabs which they collected in little baskets tied to their waist. My heart went out to these poor men braving the cold waters for hours on end, in search of a livelihood. What was just a casual ‘touristy’ sight for me, happened to be bread and butter for these men, caught sadly between penury and preference. Watching them, I let out a silent prayer of gratitude for my lot, and for their safety!
The neighbourhood housing our resort had a quaint, colonial charm to it. Most of the government offices, educational institutes, civilian club, military and civil hospitals, still bore the British name ‘Cannanore’. The tranquil cantonment setting with old world villas, bungalows, and the burgeoning monsoon greenery made for an endearing visual treat.
The nearby Payyambalam beach presented a breathtaking canvas of sand, sun and surf. The sunset there is a sight not to be missed. Families sauntered around, frolicking in the waters, or traipsing along the wet sands, munching on the spicy savouries selling nearby, clicking endless selfies, or simply admiring the splendid sunset.
Another tourist attraction was the Muzzhappilanghad Beach nearby. It offers a unique, breezy drive-in experience - the longest in Asia. The cool sea breeze brushing across our faces as we drove along the languid beach, alongside the water, made for a unique travel experience.
This was our second visit to Kannur and hence, we were not much inclined to go for an extensive sight-seeing programme. We spent most of our three days in our large L-shaped balcony commanding a panoramic 270-degree view, looking out into the waters, and soaking in its nonpareil beauty. The only vehicular sound we heard in those three days was the occasional whirring of the motorised fishing boats.
What intrigued me the most in Kannur was the curious juxtaposition of the moving with the constant. While the rocks and boulders have remained transfixed at their place for centuries…while the waves come splashing with their unchanging, enduring pattern every single day…there is also the constant movement of water, of the ebb and flow of the waves, and the natural rhythm of high and low tides. And in this eternal, abiding romance between the sea and the land, I did not mind being the proverbial third wheel...the ‘insignificant other’ for just a few days!
Urmi Chakravorty is a former educator and presently, a freelance writer, reviewer and editor based out of Bangalore, India. She is a military spouse and has majored in English Literature and Language. Her non-fiction pieces are occasionally published in The Hindu and The Times of India. As co-author, her short stories and poems have found space in twenty-five domestic and international literary journals and anthologies, including Women’s Web, Writefluence, TMYS Reviews, Borderless Journal and The Wise Owl. Urmi is an Orange Flower awardee for writing on LGBTQIA issues. Her other interests include reading, music, travel, and spending time with community dogs.