Kerala is deeply and darkly magical. Like the smell of ageing teak wood in your grandmother’s ancestral house. Like the sudden coolness of a dark sanctum inside an ancient temple. An alluring gypsy woman with a secret.
She is breathtakingly beautiful. But her beauty is not the kind that can be contained. Despite the fact that that Kerala has been made into a concept — a ‘God’s own Country’ to be bottled, packaged, repackaged and sold to spend-happy honeymooners from India and tourists across the globe. Despite all the travel clichés, must-do lists and wellness holiday fads involving Ayurveda, Kalaripayattu and Kathakali. Despite all the marketing genius in their tourism campaigns, there’s a wild, untamed quality to Kerala’s beauty. Like a Malayali woman’s. There’s a quiet grace to her, but look away from what everyone wants you to see and you can smell the fragrance of the wet earth in her hair and an impish irreverence for all things predictable in her eyes.
We were back in Kerala for the second time in six months and were amazed at every step of our journey. There is an irresistible sensuousness in how green Kerala is. Refusing any attempt to become a manicured objet d’art, she is violently, brilliantly, refreshingly green. An explosion of green everywhere. Outside homes and along well-maintained roads. Out of walls and in empty spaces. Life always finds a way here. And as we travelled from one beautiful district to another, we saw that even the urban enclosures with their sprawling homes and clean, well-maintained roads, shared space with this mighty green kingdom in perfect harmony.
The Western Ghats of Kerala
woke up every one of our senses. There were rivers of thick clouds
flowing beneath our feet. Wispy clouds enveloped us in misty whiteness, whispering secrets into our ears as they teased us, appearing and disappearing as they pleased. Clouds everywhere, doing the dance of life, painting our deep green views with a shadowy mysteriousness. The smell of rain tantalising us in the peak of May. The damp earth leaving grass stains on us. The taste of the first few drops of glorious rain. The haunting tunes whistled by an orchestra of birds. It was all just too idyllic.
We saw emerald green forests creating an unending canopy of foliage, pregnant with life and untold stories of the Earth. We saw backwaters that showed us images of a life we could get used to. The water is not just a part of their geography. It’s their raison d’être. Their friend, foe and livelihood. We saw tourists, not unlike us, watch in fascination from their houseboats as the locals fished, bathed, sailed, washed, cooked and went about their lives in the incredible network of backwater villages.
We saw cities that were home to traders, invaders, explorers and adventurers from all over the world, centuries ago. We saw inspiring churches, elegant mosques and peaceful temples. We saw beautiful homes and even more beautiful people. We saw happy, friendly and warm humans who smiled easily. We saw helpful and competent employees of the incredibly efficient public transport
network. We saw golden-fried parottas being served with curries rich in aromatic spices and coconut milk. We saw happy cows and lazy cats. We saw a region of such goodness and charm that we will surely come back for more.
Kerala, you beauty! We will definitely meet again.