The winter bath at Kumarakom

Kottayam is known as the land of letters, latex and lakes. It is home to various unique aspects of Kerala. It is home to Malayala Manorama – the premier media house of the state, the numerous agricultural folks specialised in rubber cultivation, and the stunning view of lakes of Kumarakom and Vembanad.
 
Kottayam was the favourite destination for me and my hostel mates during the short vacations of our post graduation days in Coimbatore. There were a few among us, who had their homes at Kottayam, and we used to make it a point to skip the trip to our homes and make it a point to land at Kottayam instead to unwind and rejuvenate. Who would like to miss the perfect blend of nature, food and rest at one shot?
 
It was sometime in November 2004, and the Pooja / Deepavali holidays were drawing closer. It was not so cold in Coimbatore, so we decided to beat the heat and invigorate ourselves by spending the first couple of days of our vacation at Kottayam.
 
As it was vacation time, most of the luxury buses and trains were booked in advance, so we had to take the bumpy and wobbly KSRTC buses all the way down to Kottayam. Tired and bruised at the journey, the brains and body was in a slumber. We had planned to put up for the day at Ajeesh’s house, somewhere on the way from Kottayam to Kumarakom. But, soon as we landed at the bus stand and were on the lookout for the next bus to his place, he told us the news – there was no enough space to accommodate all of us in his house, and we would be put up at his old and depleted tharavad, where nobody stays nowadays.
 
We were quite okay with the idea. After all, we did not like to interrupt his family in between the fun that we would like to have. So, we all decided unanimously to make the old tharavad our home for the night, quite contentedly. Only when we reached there did we realise…. the place was really spooky one, in the midst of a farm, surrounded by heavy trees, and in the background, miles and miles of paddy fields with no other living being in sight. They had stopped staying at this place a long time back and worst of all, the house was of at a time when there was no electricity, and it was pitch dark.
 
Quite nice start to the adventure, I thought. It had started to bring in the horror feeling to it, and we were feeling like characters out of a Scooby Doo movie. There were continuous howling of foxes all round, and mysterious chirping of birds, all added up to the already horrendous atmosphere.
 
We had dinner bought from Ajeesh’s house. It was the best dinner that we could get from a noble Christian home in Central Travancore, but that was not enough for us to beat the trepidation. We could only go to sleep after having our dose of Old Monk, once that was gulped down, the resonance of the wolves and foxes were silenced for the night. We slept peacefully.
 
We woke up early morning. It was awfully cold, like the regular December dawns in any part of Kerala. Only then, when we ventured out in the first rays of the sun, we could identify the paradise that we were in. It was a picture perfect postcard portrait, nature at its best – a perfect advertisement for God’s Own Country.
 
The fun part of the morning was just about to begin. Despite the sun rising high, it was quite cold, even at 8AM. We realised that there were no bathroom where we could take our showers, and all we could see was a well, in the traditional mode. We had to draw the waters out with the bucket and pulley – and make our own creative idea to take bath.
 
All of us were individually too lazy to pick up the water and pour it over us. It was too cold. And taking a bath in the open was not too good idea. Even though there were no houses nearby, there was a little bit of hesitation in each one of us.
 
If something could not be done individually, there was only one option left – to do it collectively. So, all of us were at it. Dressed in bath towels, feeling the chill of the morning all over us, we moved near the well. The first bucket was pulled up with shivering hands – think it was Anil who pulled it out – and quite hesitantly, poured it all over us.
 



Image © Nidheesh Narayanan
Man, this was the most Alive and Awesome moment for all of us. One thing was that it was the coldest, sweetest and most pure water of our lives that was falling over us. We guys were lucky enough to enjoy this. Another facet was the sheer enjoyment of bathing out in a group, in the open, with friends. Not to mention the elation of identifying the joy of living life, at least for a day, in an environment devoid of modernity, technology and electricity. That, made us feel so close to life, so Alive, so Awesome.
 
It was one hell of a moment, a feeling that is too difficult to put into words, to explain. It needs to be lived.
 
It is almost eight years after this memorable trip that we had. The awesome bathing experience in the ice cold waters out of the well of a traditional tharavad in one sleepy corner of central Travancore, even now after all these years, bring a fresh lease of life and freshness into the soul, even at the thought of it.
 
Its bliss – to live in nature, to live in tradition, to be Alive and Awesome.
 
This post is written for Cinthol’s new Alive is Awesome marketing campaign.
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