"Sighting a Murky Vista" State of Kerala Travelogue by yumiyun
State of Kerala Travel Guide: 1,665 reviews and 4,081 photos
Landscape of green valleys and thick forests took turn repeatedly during a five-hour journey. The bus was flying almost all the way; I cannot call the technique driving. As the tourist industry calls this southern state of India, Kerala, “God’s own country,” the bus driver was definitely heading towards heaven. After all, public and private bus drivers race through hill stations for faster transport and in competition to pick up as many passengers as possible. Near death experience it may seem as the bus speeds up around the steep slopes and cliffs. But the sceneries out of the window were dazzling – especially when tea plantations spread beyond the sight. Nevertheless, as the bus reached Kumily, a town on the border of Kerala and neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, a destructive reality was about to reveal itself which, for most of the times, is hindered by the natural beauty of this region.
I have heard that Kumily village is facing problem with water supply. As my colleague, who accompanied me in this short trip, and I walked up a steep hill leading from the town to village, we noticed a line of water faucets sticking out from the ground every kilometer or so. It turns out that the local government has come up with a water scheme some years back, but these faucets never really worked. So where do the villagers get their water everyday? Our curiosity took us off the mountain highway and into a dirt road of the village in attempt to locate the villagers’ water source. As we strolled deeper into the village for about an hour, we began to encounter women and young girls carrying buckets here and there. Obviously, they were going somewhere to get their water. We followed a young girl who carried an empty bucket in her hand. Soon we saw an open well next to a small shop and suspected the girl was going to take the water from the well. But to our surprise, she walked past the well and followed a narrow path down. As we hanged our heads into the well, we realized that there was not even a half bucket full of water at the bottom of the well. As we further proceeded, we have come to another open well. This one had some water in it, but muddy. How are these villagers surviving with this water? My colleague inquired some women with bucket on their head where they are getting the water. Apparently, some get from the stream down in the small valley and some others get from a fortunate neighbor who has constructed private well. Either way, the village women have to go up and down the road in this hilly village to get water everyday. That’s got to be a tough job, poof!
Located among the hills, Kumily is much cooler than rest of Kerala for its tropical climate. Normally, whenever I come back from outside in this part of the world I have a quick bath to refresh myself. This time, I came back to my hotel room and wondered. In this town located just outside Kumily village is abundant water supply. Is it because the town is located lower in the hill, or because we are staying in a hotel? From the town to the village, there must have been hardly five kilometers. And water disappears like that.
Kumily itself is not really a tourist spot. But it is on the way to Thekkady wild life sanctuary, a tourist attraction of the district. The interesting thing, though, is that this wild life sanctuary is situated on the banks of an artificial lake that came in existence upon the construction of a hydro dam. So perhaps it is a typical dam story: a dam is constructed to supply water for the people in the city far away, and the people who have been displaced as a result of this project or people who live close to the dam receive nil benefit. Matter of fact, a section of Kumily village population is those who have been rehabilitated from another part of the state for dam construction a few decades ago. Is this an irony or what?
Thekkady, after all, didn’t make it to my favorite places list. Rather I was perplexed by the hardship hindered by the image of god’s own country. The dense evergreen, moist deciduous forest astonishes travelers so that their remembrance of this place always be pleasant. It is true for most of the tourist destinations: beauty and joy are always part of memorable journey. But we must keep in mind that behind the curtain there are scenes we did not see. Some may decide not to see because it grows sense of guilt in us. Perhaps more so when we travel in so-called developing nations, particularly because those of us who are from the developed nations would most often travel in a car merely witnessing what lies on the surface of people’s livelihood there.
With a bit of bitter taste I set out of Kumily, on the flying bus again.
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