Dying traditions in an emerging India

You may have read some of my posts about local traditional crafts which seem to be disappearing (potter, coracle fishermen, buildersari weaver ). I can well understand how the young people of today want a better life for themselves. Everyone is looking for a job which is less physically demanding, which pays more and gives them more time to spend with their families. The problem is that many skills are being lost as the younger generation shun the arduous, poorly paid jobs of their parents. So what happens to those skills? Will they be lost forever? Will they be ‘re-discovered’ in a few years and be used to set up ‘themed’ museums where people can go to see what life used to be like in India?

We at Lakeside are not the only ones who struggle with this. Take a look at this post from les3elephants, a resort in Kerala. Maybe you will have to visit India and stay there while you can still sleep under the traditional roofs built of bamboo and coconut!

The way forward for India is difficult, challenging and exciting. The question of disappearing skills has no real answer. All we can do is wait and see what develops over the next few years…

The water of life…or death?

The Kerala backwaters are a microcosm of life in India.  I have already posted about the fishing we saw on our tour so today I want to focus on the water itself.

Welcome to the Backwaters

These two young lads welcome you to the backwaters.  How many people would enjoy a swim in these warm waters?  But swimming is not the only activity which takes place.

Life on Keralas Backwaters

When you have no running water you use the nearest source to wash your hair or have a bath.

washing clothes in the Backwaters

You also need somewhere to wash your clothes…

washing pots in the Backwaters

…and your pots and pans.

The big problem is the quality of water, a problem throughout India.

Over 772 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation in India, that’s two thirds of the population – so you can guarantee that the backwaters are used as a toilet by a number of local residents.

93 million people in India don’t have access to safe water – so you can also guarantee that some people will be getting their drinking water either from the backwaters itself or local wells which are not safe.

Over 186,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in India. (Statistics from Water Aid UK  )

Even if people do not drink the water from the Backwaters the fact that they bathe in it, swim in it and eat from pots washed in it means that they are always open to infection.

The Backwaters of Kerala are a beautiful place and I recommend that if you ever get the chance you should visit and enjoy.  Hopefully the income from tourism will help such rural areas to improve the supplies of clean water for the local residents.

Fishing the Kerala backwaters

Kerala backwaters, south India-crop

I recently took as group of guests to the Backwaters of Kerala.  These backwaters are part of Lake Vembanand, the longest lake in India at 96.5km long and 14km wide.  It is a major tourist attraction in Kerala with people cruising in converted rice barges to get a closer look at life by the waterside.  There are many boats cruising around, but surprisingly you do not really  notice them as you train your binoculars on the wonderful bird life or watch the local people going about their everyday lives.

MIsty water Kerala backwaters

Fishing is a major part of life in the Backwaters and on a misty early morning you are able to see the fishermen at work.

towing fishing boats, Kerala, India

Sometimes they take the easy route to their fishing ground with a larger boat towing a number of the small fishing boats.

fishing, Kerala backwaters

Many of the fishermen use nets or lines to catch fish which taste wonderful when freshly cooked.  These men however are fishing for cockles (shell fish).

fishing on the backwaters

shell fish, Kerala backwaters

If you want somewhere to relax and enjoy nature, the Backwaters of Kerala are a great place to visit.  There will be more posts about life there in the future!

Kerala fishing boats