Sunday, January 25, 2009

Creating Ourselves

Much has been written, and spoken, about the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States. But I thought Mr.Obama said it best himself, in the article he wrote for Time magazine in 2005: "“...a larger, fundamental element of American life — the enduring belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams.”

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Birding at Kumarakom

We'd heard so much about Kumarakom, and the thousands of birds that make this area their home every winter, and we decided that a trip to Kerala would not be complete without a visit to this avian resort.

As soon as we entered, we were told by the staff at the gate that we had come at the wrong time and that we should come in May-June for the best bird sightings. We were then hustled into purchasing a "Safari tour" which for most of the time consisted of a Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation employee in a loud motorboat scaring the birds away.

A few houseboats on the Vembanad lake cruised by, fully equipped with satellite TV dishes, Air Conditioners and deck chairs. In the peak December holiday season they rent for about Rs.12,000 per day.

Once we crossed the houseboats, and cut the motor, we got sight of some of the birds we had come to see.

The walking tour, which took us through dense vegetation showed some birds and marketing that we had not seen earlier. One of the villagers, who lived in nearby areas, offered to take us in a canoe, reeling off a list of bird names - Grey Heron, Purple Swamp hen, Little Egret, Cormorants - that we could see if we went with him. We had seen all of these and more in the boat trip, so we decided to walk along the water's edge. We would have seen a lot more birds, had it not been for noisy tourists talking loudly about dinner plans and shooing away all the birds.

Three hours later, we were back on the road to Kottayam. Inspite of the KSTDC's efforts, Kumarakom is still a great place to visit and there would probably be a lot more birds to see if the government prohibited motorboats and replaced them by row-boats as they have done in Ranganathittu.