A Day In A Houseboat.
I’ve never been on a boat/ship for more than 30 minutes in my life. It is only since last week that I’ve been traveling, and I’m spending a full 24 hours on a houseboat. I’m writing this piece while sitting on a cane rocking chair on the boat-deck eating pineapple slices.
The best part about traveling is I can tell everyone that little gem of a statement 'I’m traveling.' I always love the sentence. There is this secret enigma about this statement that instantly puts you on the world map. Someone calls you, and you say 'I’m traveling.' It gives a silent 'wow' impact. The person on the other side of the phone feels puny because he is not traveling at that point in time.
From another angle, that tiny sentence 'I’m traveling' exempts you from any to-do lists. It forgives everything that you were supposed to do but haven’t done. It relieves you from responding to any emails, from paying any bills, from taking care of any issues, from calling your mom, and also from receiving any calls from your boss. The last one is obviously the best benefit. You take his call and say ‘I’m traveling and the network is patchy. Hello....hello..’(take the phone far away from your mouth while saying hello.) Finally, tap that red disconnect button hard. Catharsis!
Now that I'm on a boat, even I'm enjoying my time devoid of any mundane obligations except for the natural.
To explain my existence on a boat, no, I’ve not been shipwrecked. I’m just visiting a place called Alleppey in Kerala, India. There is this fabulous touristy concept of a 'houseboat.' It is a big boat with a house built on it. It is like a ship. Except that it is not. You can stay in it for a day and do nothing but eat, look at the open sky, eat again and look at the open sky thinking of how your parents have been terrible with you in your childhood, eat again and look at the open sky thinking of how you’ve grown up so well despite the parents until finally it gets dark and you cannot look at the sky anymore.
A houseboat has proper bedrooms, a kitchen, a deck where you can hang out (and dry up if you accidentally topple off), and a crew to take care of the houseboat and your needs. The crew usually includes a chef, an engineer to handle the ship, and a Captain Philippe. No, don't believe me about the name. The captain can have any name that he chooses to: Philip, Philipe with an 'e,' Philippe with a 'ppe,' or Kalabari, or Canimozhi.
Let me tell you that a houseboat has the basic comforts you need - air-conditioned bedrooms, a soft bed with loads of pillows, a small bath with anti-slip tiles, chairs to sit out and enjoy the breezy river view, food as you please (of course with certain limitations of variety since we are on a boat and not on a cruise), tonnes of sunlight, and truckloads of time. You can't go 'out' anywhere. If you have a fight with your spouse, you cannot slam the main door and just walk out. The ultimate you can do is to bang the driver's chair and jump into the water. However, if you do that, you will be at a disadvantageous position and the crew may refuse to fish you out. You will be on your own. In the water.
Houseboats move in lagoons of big rivers. They have a chalked out water route that they follow. They also anchor by 5:30 pm to avoid getting stuck in fishing nets cast in the rivers for the next morning catch. To bring a little variety in your staring-at-the-sky life of 24 hours, the crew organize little canoe rides through the numerous small canals of the area. You get off the houseboat for an hour and get into a small canoe that boats you around the place. There exists a vibrant life around these canals. You can see a lot of people fishing in their pyjamas, small kids splashing in the waters and completely oblivious of passing strangers, a few people selling fish in their own small boats and a lot of greenery.
Getting back to the houseboat, you can read until it gets dark or think of how wonderful it would be if Emma Stone was with you on the boat deck. You would be sipping tender coconut water while looking at each other’s eyes. I’m not indicating love here, but just trying to figure out which one of you took bigger sips to finish the sweet water. However, since Emma can’t really make it to the boat, you can talk to the Captain about Somalian pirates or about Moby Dick.
Finally when it gets dark, you eat an early dinner and think of sleeping. Tossing and turning never had a better connotation than sleeping on a boat with mild tosses.
The only caveat here are the numerous bugs and mosquitoes that love the freshness of guests around. However if you are an entomologist, you may have a second opportunity to write a thesis here. One night and you have a thesis ready by the morning.
**the photo above is that of a houseboat taken from our houseboat**
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