Fish market and Emerald Isle: south India, Kerala dreaming

It’s fish market day! Everyday …like Wall St trading!  
A few of us accepted the offer to meet at 645 am to walk to the town for the fish auction. We take the large canoe boat ferry over to the mainland from our private island resort. Walking along quietly through the village on a walk pathway, enjoying the busy sights of women with large metal containers on their heads, on the way to market to get the best fish … A few bicycles with young children also riding to market.  
I am reminded about the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as I see a young boy, maybe 8-10 years old pitching rocks and doddling along the path. Did his mom send him with some change to buy fish for supper? I wonder …..
Fishermen are out early 5 or 6 am to catch fresh fish for the auction / market. Of course all day there is fishing activity as well, but this daily auction is truly a community event.  
In to the central market area we walk .. … Fish still flopping. Some laying on tarps, many just in piles on the ground. Hundreds of piles! This is truly a big event! I am so surprised and delighted by the sense of community. It sounds like Wall Street must, bidders and auctioneers at every pile and mostly women purchasing, turning away when they don’t like the price, leaning in when they are pleased. She acknowledges when the price is right, a sale is made.  
I offered to pay 500 rupees to purchase some fish, give to woman for her and her family. Never been offered before, I am told. The tour leader and guide understand my offer but can not figure out how to make it work. They explain how this system and process is self sufficient. I keep my rupees. 🙂
On the far side of the market, there is the same woman, re-selling her fish at a slight profit for lesser amounts, wrapped now in newspaper for individuals for their homes. Also for sale, spices for fish curries, vegetables, fruits and tapioca from the back of a cart or TukTuk. The whole town is here! It was truly a sight to behold!
On the walk back we stop at a coconut tree. Every stage of coconut on one tree. Every 45 days – different portion is ready to harvest. 
Our next adventure is to ride a houseboat all afternoon, 4.5 hours! We see and ask questions of different things ….
From shells of mussels the locals make white powder used for cement … And white paint. Decorate with it … They sell it at the market. People come to your house and collect the shells, and take it to central area where the powder is manufactured. Money exchange is complete.  
Simple, self sufficient are words that come to mind to describe the economy of this area.  
People do their laundry on rocks in the evening, hang their sarees and miles of fabric on a clothes line. House dresses worn at home, dress in saree for day time activities away from home.  
On road again. Alleppy also known as Alappuzha, which means land between sea and river that flows in to it. Famous boat race on huge dragon boat type vessels with 100 rowers per boat. Famous also for fluffy rice. Allepy Is below sea level. Wet lands. Rice bowl of Kerala. Black, red, white … Rice. 25 percent of rice of Kerala grown here in Allepy. 

Ninety percent of backwater islands are man made from muds of the river bed and imported bricks. Much of the land is below sea level and the locals have to rebuild their houses when monsoon season happens.  
No overweight men are seen so far in India, likely due to the manual labour we see in rural areas and even in the cities. Men wearing short and long versions of wraps, and are seen to wash in river, still in their wraps. Women have no head cover here. Some carry umbrellas to keep off the hot sun. Still dressed in colourful sarees during daytime and while at work in the fields.  
“Indian people have less toilets than mobile phones in this country..” our guide, Sanjay informs us. Lol. We see satellite dishes on top of very basic homes … Thatched roofs, palm leaves to keep out the rain in monsoon season.
We travel over 30 kms today in a straw thatched roof houseboat. Laying on a mattress in the front, watching the fabulous green jungle life float by. Looking up to the huge palm leaves of the coconut tree. Huge herons, snowy white egrets and black shiny cormorants. Heads of men fishing in the waters, dropping down and popping up with their catch of the day. Women washing clothes, the slap slap slap of fabric on the smooth rocks. Still other women washing dishes and pots on the river bank, standing on rock shelves. Rice patty fields as far as the eye can see on the other side of homes, and coconut palm trees.  
Peaceful and slow, we meander up stream further and further from our vehicle and luggage. We have day packs and overnight clothes with us for an exotic cooking demonstration, meal and home stay.  
Cremations do take place for Hindu families, along this river, using holy ghats in front of church and temple lands. Other people prefer to be buried. 
The youngest son gets the house and has to look after parents. This homestead been in the family for 150 years. 15 years as guest house, before, rice patty farming was source of income.  
We enjoy a drink from the outside flower of nutmeg and sugar boiled to a tea mixture and served cold and frothy as we hear about his home and the history. Then outside for a walk about to see and photograph the orchids, black pepper, nutmeg and allspice plants among many more. Then a cooking demonstration of a few vegetarian Indian dishes.  
We are then shown to our rooms. It takes my breath away… Golden pillows and bedding, an outdoor covered bathroom and shower and separate outdoor patio area. We have a spacious living area and the air conditioning is on and the place is cool. Heavenly. We have an hour and a half till dinner made special by the home stay hosts.  
I love the red silk woven carpet on the floor, the heavy dark wood doors, elephants and peacock brass decorations and lotus flower adorning our front door. A gracious welcome and an extraordinary experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  
Namaste.  
Ps. If I could I would have an outdoor bathroom like the one in our suite, and live in a place where that was practical! It is pure decadence! Www.emeraldislekerala.com. Check it out! Extraordinary!  

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