I was born in Kerala, but then I left at a young age. I have visited Kerala, but was rarely permitted to venture out of my family’s protective bubble. My sister and I were escorted by the family driver from one auntie’s house to another, sipping endless cups of chai that each tasted sweeter than the last.
It was always strange to listen to stories of friends’ visits to Kerala filled with backwater houseboats and hippie beaches – all of these were foreign to me. It wasn’t until reading about it in a travel book that I realized that I was from the “backwaters”. How provincial my roots were indeed. If Kerala exists in the global consciousness as an ayurvedic elephant paradise, for its displaced children, it’s more reminiscent of beef curry and watered down communism.
Last week was my first time visiting the state as a tourist – staying in a relatively fancy hotel and hiring boats to take us sightseeing. We even went to the beach where, as expected, all the foreigners stripped down and plunged in while most of the Indians, local and otherwise stood around for hours and posed with the horizon in the background.
While lying down and reading a magazine, a particularly plump group of aunties insisted on standing about 2 feet behind me. “This is nothing compared to Marina Beach” one said authoritatively. I wonder if she swims in Chennai.
If the first half of my trip was an introduction to the Lonely Planet version of Kerala, the second was gloriously familiar, perhaps so because it was juxtaposed with the former. The food was good in the first half, but spectacular in the second (I remember this one time a few years ago when I had to explain to my cousins and aunt what paneer was – they had never heard of it and assumed that I was just making things up). Lots of tourists in the first half and lots of mundus in the second. And green – there was green everywhere.
No big point or political statement in this post – merely wanted to share my trip and some pictures. Enjoy.