Entering Kumbalangi is like being flipped on to the tranquility of a small village from the cacophony of a city's (Kochi's) busy activities; a loud call from Kochi might even reverberate in Kumbalangi. Yet this village does not take to the city's ways. Passing through the roads of this village without any smoke or pollution is a different experience.
Crossing the city border at Palluruthi, there is only a small bridge to cross over to enter Kumbalangi. Passing that bridge we reached the only model tourism village in India. The tourism office was closed. Behind that, you could see the Chinese fishing nets slumbering down on to the lake. For the tourists, to watch the hauling up of those nets, there is a small enclosure with chairs, adjacent to it. Passing the churches and some shops, we reached a small junction. Turning right, you see the 'Pokkaali Paadangal' (Pokkaali farms). That road connects Kumbalangi to Kandakkadavu in Chellaanam Panchayath.
Going ahead a little, you can see the corralled lagoons for farming prawns on both sides of the road; these are known as Pokkaali Paadangal. As the saying 'six months at home and six months in the wilderness' goes, for six months these fields are in rice cultivation and for six months, the prawn farming. Pokkaali rice is grown in the slush on the shore; a farming without man made manure.
At a distance, you can see a spread of a lake rippling on the breeze; and with small islets scattered here and there. As the string to a kite, narrow pathways link these islets to the mainland. Walking farther through the road we saw a man squatting on a fallen electric post under a yellow umbrella and fishing - Prasanth, a Kumbalangi man on leave from work due to fever. For fear of offending him, the tingle to ask 'couldn't the people here sit idle' was set aside as dropping the fishing hook back into the pouch.
While strolling through the breeze, the grasses and the bushes blocked the view of the backwaters. Somewhere in between, crossing tall bushes, we saw a fishing couple, up to waist in water: Kunhappan-chettan spreading his fishing net and his wife Sauda-chechi gathering the catch in the net into a pot. To our request for their consent to take their photos, he replied slowly after a pause of several seconds (as normally seen in some classical award winning movie), 'what do we gain being photographed?...last year our photos had been in some newspaperâ€¦ we didn't gain anything. If you pay us at least for a tea or so, you may take our photos...'. After taking their photos, we extended some notes to pay them. Hugging the pot filled with fresh prawns and a beaming smile on the face, Sauda chechi waded on to the shore to collect it. They catch fish worth Rs. 200 per day. Bidding goodbye and looking back, we saw them going back to the lake for another catch.
Beyond the border of Kumbalangi, stepping on to the road to Kannamaali, we saw an amazing sight: a small canoe crossing the road - .a fisher man taking his canoe hoisted over his head across the road to park it safely. Seeing the board 'Kannamaali Fish Landing Center', we wondered whether any fish lands there. This is the place where the fisher men disembark with their catch and the fishing nets (called 'Ozhukku vala' or 'Udakku vala') after foraging for fish around the lake in their canoes.
Returning to Kumbalangi, as you turn right near the Panchayath office, you enter a road on the heart of Kumbalangi, the road to Kallancheri hemming prawn farming lagoons, Chinese fishing nets and coconut orchards. Here there are crab farming centers also. To enjoy the typical Kumbalangi style food, one should come to Kallancheri.
On reaching this place surrounded by backwaters, drinking Thankappan chettan's famed 'two and a half meter tea', would give you more vigour to roam around and see the sights. There are many home stays in Kumbalangi. Please do not forget to go for a morning walk in the village and after relishing Kumbalangi curries, roam around on the backwaters; your mind would be filled with the village sights. Before visiting the village, you should call and enquire with the Model Tourism Village Development Society here.
24km South-west from Cochin ctiy
How to reach
By road: From Ernakulam South Railway station head towards Naval Base on old NH (NH47A). Take right deviation after the Thoppumpadi BOT bridge. Head to Palluruthi, Kumbalangi vazhi stop and deviate right to Perumbadappu road which leads to Kumbalangi bridge.
Kumbalangi Model Tourism Village Development Society
Contact: Shivadathan, Mob: 9349253124, Shaji Kuruppassery, Mob: 9446868561
Text: Yathra Team
Photos: P Jayesh
Translation: Balachandran P