Soak up Kovalam

When the rains hit Kovalam, the small town turns into your biggest monsoon cliché, writes Rashmi Vasudeva

A quiet green corner of Kovalam

As far as the eye could see, there was grey; sometimes tinged with the blue of a dead fish. And yet, there was none of the stillness you tend to expect with such weather. Instead, there was a wail in the air that rattled the rickety panes of the aquarium no one was interested in and a tremendous tumult of water kept rapping against its latticed windows. The ashen sea was a-splutter with rage. At the far end of the beach stood the forlorn lighthouse, in determinedly happy colours of pink and white.

I expected Emily Bronte’s tragic hero Heathcliff to be standing on one of the blackened cliffs. “Varoo, namukku thirichu pokam.” With those words, my autodriver apparated in front of me, his smile wide and starkly different from my imagined angst on Heathcliff’s face. I was quite prosaically brought out of my dark reverie.

Monsoon upon the Samudra beach; (top) Lighthouse beach during the rains. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR
Monsoon upon the Samudra beach; (top) Lighthouse beach during the rains. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR

In tandem

Here, it pours with a vengeance that is to be seen to be believed. The less-touristy Samudra beach, as redundant as its name is, is all froth and fury. The palms bluster around in tandem with the wind and the rain. And you are in the middle of it all, quiet, because there is so much roaring, laughing and living going on around you.

Kovalam’s reputation as a hippie paradise, awash with exotic India-seeking tourists does not do justice to its hush and its unassuming beauty. Steer clear of the touristy main stretch near the too-crowded Hawa beach and you can find solitude for yourself. Kovalam was once just a fishing village but today is a sort of surf club capital, with waves that brochures would describe as “exciting and adventurous”.

The lighthouse beach is a beauty with the lighthouse at the southern end and cliffs overlooking the shore on the other end. However, the many ugly hotels, shacks and restaurants that dot the area are a genuine eyesore. But there is a hidden gem here and that’s the aquarium where I found no one except a bored guard and tanks full of glittery, magical fish — hundreds of them preserved lovingly by who knows who. While the rain beat against the windows, I hid inside this ‘marine research aquarium’ and got myself acquainted with creatures who understand lonesomeness like no one else can.

 A quiet green corner of Kovalam.

A quiet green corner of Kovalam.

Therapeutic

A little further from the main town is the aforementioned Samudra beach, much quieter, and when not dancing in rain fury, prettier than its more famous counterparts. For those who can afford it, there are some truly stunning guesthouses and resorts nearby.

A thriving culture of Ayurveda exists in these parts but tourists are advised to be wary of quacks.

When it pours in Kovalam though, all the beaches, resorts, shacks and restaurants merge into each other. The beaches turn into near-empty stretches of sand, cliffs and sea, heaving with dread and bearing a slickness born out of deep grey.

I went to Kovalam yearning for this very bleakness that I hoped the monsoons would gift me and I got it in every handful of sand and every fat drop that drenched my skin.

As the sea surged up and about mercilessly, it was easy to believe in every fantasy and every story I had ever heard about the lord of the waters. Everything felt strangely intimate and endless. But endless, it was not.

The very next morning, the sky was blue, and the clouds, they were receding. The sun that was hiding all the two days I was there was shining away. It was green, dewy and too beautiful for words, and yet, my heart longed for that wind and rain of the previous evening. I wished fervently for its return. But come back it did not.

And that is how Kovalam got to keep a piece of my bleak heart forever.

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