Monday, 30 December 2013

Christmas in Munnar

What's so different about Munnar, you might ask. It is just another hill-station, just another group of tea gardens, just another set of winding roads that lead up to overflowing hotels, just another place to buy a few more spices and tea packets and eucalyptus oil, just a  few more viewpoints where busy travellers click pictures and spend their money and time recovering from the madness of their daily lives.

This Christmas in Munnar, even as travellers did all the above, I walked, oblivious of the crowd, in the search for something new.

The lilting strains of the carols beckoned me towards the tall and imposing structure that sat proudly above high, winding, steps. As I climbed up the steps and reached the church gate, the crowd mingled with me - tourists along with the local people, impossible to distinguish one group from the other, all united in the search for peace and silence.

The Church, which dates back to 1898, was the first Roman Catholic Church in the high-ranges and its gates are wide-open even today as people filter in for a moment of quiet worship.

The high ceiling of the Church echoed the beautiful strains of the oft-repeated carols, some unknown tunes in Malayalam adding to the magic of the moment.

The Christmas service over, the crowd started walking back, the tourists looking for the next attraction, the local people back to their own lives.

I sat on the wooden bench, alone, the carols still ringing in my ears-the child that had learnt to sing the carols in the chapels of childhood now teaching the true meaning of the blessings amidst the calm they showered on the restless mind.

Picturesque Poovar

Legend has it that many years ago King Raja Marthanda Varma was ousted from his throne and sought refuge in a tiny island called Poovar. He was so captivated by its beauty that he named it Poovar - the river of the flowers.

Today, as our boat navigates the silence of the backwaters and takes us deeper and deeper into the forest of ripples and shimmers, we are greeted by tall coconut trees bending over the shore as if protecting its secret from indifferent travellers, a lone crane that nods a gentle hello and glides gracefully forward, the orange Sun that takes a quiet dip in the pristine sea beyond the golden sand beach, the black lines of the fishing boats where the fishermen measure their catch of the day, the floating cottages that jut out on the green waters and rock gently in rythm.

Poovar still offers a refuge for those seeking silence and beauty, away from the bustling madness of the city and the hustling tourist traps. Poovar offers nothing else but a hint of mysteries untold, stories unheard, ripples unseen and beauty untouched.

The pictures can say it better. An hour away from Trivandrum, accessible only by boat, Poovar offers a rare combination of land locked by sea and the backwaters and silence broken only by the sound of the waves and the flight of the birds.

The orange glow spreading its warmth
The golden sand separating the quiet backwaters on one side and the restless sea on the other
Footprints that will get washed away in the ocean's fury

The boat inches closer, the silence grows

The trees bend over, hugging the water
The cottages that float on the bed of the water
The Sun peeks through the wall of trees