Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.”—The Crow (1994).
I thought of this quote by James O’Barr as I headed to Kakkathuruthu, a 4km-long picturesque island on Vembanad Kayal, the largest lake in Kerala. In Malayalam, Kakkathuruthu means the “Island of Crows”. A hundred years ago, the island was inhabited solely by crows. Today, it is home to around 300 families—village-folk going about their daily chores, catching fish and farming. The island can be accessed from the mainland by a vanji (rowboat; a 10-minute ride).
As my friend and I took the vanji from the Kodumpuram Ferry point to the island, we soaked in the setting—the calming backwaters, the boatman’s oars lapping the water, and the tranquillity. We were staying at the Kayal Island Retreat, an eco-sensitive resort built in harmony with its surroundings. The four cottages are simple in style, built with local material and inspired by traditional Kerala architecture—the doors and windows have been reclaimed from old Kerala tharavads (homes). The open-air bath in each cottage is the perfect space to indulge in a long bathing ritual after an Ayurvedic massage. Books on travel and culture have been thoughtfully placed everywhere.
After a simple lunch of unpolished red rice, locally grown vegetables and fresh karimeen (pearl spot fish) and prawns, I sat on the pier reading a book. I was looking forward to a walk in the village and a ride on the lake later that afternoon. As I watched the boats go by, ferrying children home from school, and heard the birdsong and chirping of insects, I could feel the relaxation seeping in.
We started our village walk with the affable Byju, a staff member at Kayal. There are no tarred roads, so we created our own path, treading mounds of earth, fallen leaves and clayey soil. The village is clean, a pleasure to walk in. We stopped at a shop for tea and a chat with the tea-lady. A banana fritter and a cup of tea later, we resumed our walk down the narrow path. We tried not to intrude as the villagers went about their chores. A motorcycle zipped past, striking a discordant note in this quiet haven.
At 5pm, as we walked along the water’s edge, we spotted our blue boat and called out to the boatman. As the boat drifted gently down the lake, we watched the fishermen casting their nets in the lagoon, and heard the faint sounds of the chenda, a percussion instrument—the boatman said the village boys were practising for the local temple festival. The water stretches as far as the eye can see, filling up the gaps between the many islands. The sun had begun to set, casting an orange hue on the water, sky and land. We watched in awe as the beauty of nature unfolded.
The next morning, I woke up to the cawing of crows. It was 6.30am, and the air was filled with chants from the temple nearby. The sun heralded a new day.
I was keen to meet the toddy-tapper the resort staff had recommended. We walked to the village and found him sharpening his knife. He picked up his kudam (pot) and walked towards the first coconut palm. He climbed it easily, making a sharp incision at the base of the leaves, and, slowly, the sap started trickling into a huge mud pot.
It was time for breakfast back at the retreat—freshly made idiappams, an egg masala and fresh fruit. The retreat offers many activities—yoga, meditation, a trip off the island to attend a Kalaripayattu workshop, and an Ayurvedic massage. I opted to spend my day reading and boat-watching. “There are crows—a few though—to work on my soul,” as the line goes in The Crow.
I soaked in the island’s natural beauty, the iridescent skyline at dawn and sunset, and the simplicity of village life. The weekend had come to an end all too soon. It was time to head back to the city. I promised myself that I would return.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @savjohzac .