Kerala's lake paradise

Over a 125 years ago, W B Yeats heard the sound of water from a fountain in a Fleet Street shop-window and was reminded of a lake back home.

“From the sudden remembrance,” he wrote, “came my poem Innisfree.” Yeats was thinking of a small island in Lough (Lake) Gill in County Sligo, Ireland, that he had loved as a boy.

Whether in time to come I shall recall Pookode Lake in Kerala with similar nostalgia, I cannot be certain.

What I do know is that on a recent family excursion to Wayanad, this freshwater lake (source of the Panamaram rivulet, later one with River Kabini) stood out among hills, caves, islands, waterfalls and other scenic attractions.

Set amid green forests on mountain slopes, at an altitude of over 2,000 m above sea level, Pookode Lake is 15 km from Kalpetta.

As we traversed its expanse, our boatman-cum-guide informed us that Pookode Lake was shaped like India.

We took this on trust since we could not, at any given moment, identify where we were on the ‘map’.

Occasionally, the friendly boatman gave each of us a chance to ply the oars. Our clumsy manoeuvres were a striking contrast to his rhythmic rowing.

Armed with mandatory life jackets, we feared no danger. Besides, there was much on which to feast our gaze; not least, the colourful pedal boats propelled by energetic youngsters. Better still were the beautiful blue water lilies adorning the surface of the lake, which is aptly known as Pookode (‘basket of flowers’).

The boatman explained that the lake was home to a certain kind of fish, Pethia Pookodensis, a species of the Cyprinid family that is only found in Pookode Lake.

After our boat trip, we walked around the lake, taking in an elephant ride on the way.

Inspecting the honey, spices and handicrafts on sale, we were told that tourist activity in the Pookode Lake area would be considerably curtailed between June and September.

When we visited it in March, Pookode Lake was at its placid best; so quiet that we did not even hear — to quote Yeats’s Lake Isle of Innisfree — ‘lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore’.

Consequently, back in my big city, I do not — as the poet did in London — ‘hear it in the deep heart’s core’. Not entirely devoid of imagination, however, I can see the blue blanket in my mind’s eye.

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