The village of Kumbalangi is known for fish and crab farming, and the joys of simple living
It started raining heavily just as I stepped into the car. My driver smiled when I told him that my destination was Kumbalangi, a small coastal village on the outskirts of Kochi. “I studied there,” he said, and started speaking about his childhood. I asked him for more information, and he gave me a brochure which called Kumbalangi “an integrated model tourism village which promised authentic rural experience”. I hoped it was not another tourist trap as we drove down, passing by the St. Josephs School and church.
Kumbalangi lived up to its promise. Ringed in by Chinese fishing nets, the backwaters painted a pretty picture. A lone cormorant basked in the sun, while a woodpecker chipped away at the bark of a coconut tree.
A few houses were scattered around while a couple of old unused coir units were lost amid the farms. A fisherman came by and asked if I was interested in fishing. As I walked with him to the jetty, we spoke about Chinese fishing nets and karimeen fishing. “Sometimes, we cover the branches of small trees that are immersed in water with nets. After some weeks, they are rich with a variety of fish,” he added.
As I wandered aimlessly around the village, speaking to locals, I noticed that almost every house raised orchids — Kumbalangi is known for pokkali farming. “It is an organic way of cultivation,” translated my driver, explaining that the farming is normally done in water-logged areas. The farmers alternate between rice and fish or prawns, based on the salinity of the water. “Crabs are aplenty here. Do you want to see crabs being caught?” he asked.
He took me to a couple of big ponds adjacent to each other. A small board announced it was a crab farm. There, we met Das, who was happy to show us his collection of crabs and explain the process of njandu krishi or crab farming. “In these ponds alone, they are close to two lakh crabs,” he mentioned, carefully catching a crustacean before throwing it back into the pond — “Not much meat; it has to grow some more,” he explained. These crabs are exported to Hong Kong, the U.S. and other countries, and business is, apparentlygood.
We spent a few more hours chatting up the locals. Old Elizabeth was very happy that she was being clicked. But, all of them had just one lament — “You hardly find any village in Kerala. Everything has changed.”
It was indeed true, I realised, as the entire skyscape changed, minutes after I drove away from Kumbalangi.