Few things in life have been as serene as a canoe trip through the backwaters of southern Kerala. I signed up for the trip, and as it turned out, I had my own private voyage. The boatman Sudarshan, myself, and eleven empty seats. Perfect.
We crept through snaking alleys of water, peeking into the backyards of village locals- slapping laundry against a rock, checking the bird nets over the vast prawn ponds, little children waving, then hiding behind doorways. Numerous low, low footbridges required ducking below the seats and then crawling towards the back of the boat to give the boat clearance as we pushed against the bridge underside with our hands. The canals were so narrow at points that we became wedged between two palm trees and required the aid of a neighbor to rock, push and shimmy us through.
I asked Sudarshan what the villagers do when the monsoons come, and if the backwaters flood. Each year the area floods into the houses, he said, and the entire community is forced to evacuate.