Friday, November 26, 2010

To God's own Country???

To God's own country... I never understood why Kerala tourism were boasting this, unless i experienced it myself. If you are an Indian, you must must visit Kerala before you die. For foreigners, they sure visit Kerala as it is on the top list for tourist places when they plan their trip to India.

What I liked best about Kerala is that though the tourism industry promotes Kerala, they have still not commercialized all the places as much as it has been in other parts of the country. They are very clear where the tourists should be allowed and where to draw the line between tourism and to maintain the purity and sanctity of the place.

So let me share my experience of the trip to Kerala with Shiho, my Japanese friend. I stayed at Alekh's, Liju's and Haris's (my NID classmates) places with their wonderful, caring and loving families. And the best part, all three from different religions - hindu, christian and muslim; but i could hardly find any difference in any of those houses in terms of love, care, hospitality, respect, purity, food and belief. I was stuffed till my throat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do not know how to thank all the mothers for the delicious food they served with so much love.

Puttu, idiuppam, verlappam, idli, Pathiri, paayasam, pappadam, fish curry and all this to go with the huge heap of rice on a big banana leaf. Various kinds of bananas - poovan, chenkadhali, paalayankodan). Hehe... i dont remember these names at all, but its that on the last day at Kerala, I asked Liju to write down all the names.

Fried fish; rice, pappadam, fish, achar on banana leaf; idiuppam being steamed in cooker

From clear water beaches to fresh air mountains, I saw all the possible nature's beauty in 11 days. But out of all, the visit to Aiyappam temple was one of the best spiritual experiences I ever had. The temple allows only Hindus to enter the temple and that too only in sarees and Munds. Earlier I thought this ridiculous as to why this kind of a restriction for seeing god? Why cant anyone can go wearing whatever to pray to god? But somehow I enjoyed the whole process of dressing up specially in the traditional Mallu Saree and visiting the temple. The temple is made with huge rock carvings of Lord Vishnu's incarnations. On both sides of corridor were pillars engraved with ladies holding diya in their hand which are lighted up at nights on Ekadasi or any such other occasion. There were various temples within the huge temple, for lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna and others. The interiors of the temple
were dark, could see only the idol and the pujari in the diya lights. The aroma of the flowers and diya purified the atmosphere. The sound of only the temple bells took out all the negative energy. I really could feel the whole meaning of visiting a temple. It felt so peaceful and calm from within. I could feel my soul. I was overwhelmed with the whole pure experience. It surely is the belief within me which made me experience all this. And am glad I could.

After this soul cleaning experience, we visited the Backwaters (Allapy) for the house boat ride for a day. I had read in a book that this is one of the top 10 things to-do-before you die. I second that completely. We got a house boat for 4 people with two bed rooms, well furnished, a chef and a captain to ride the boat- all for Rs. 7500/- only. And I think that was a good deal for a life time experience with all the good food served to you. All through out we kept sitting next to the captain, watching the water pass-by, feeling the cool breeze, waiving at every boat that crossed, clicking all the beautiful scenes and hear the water flowing.

The boat halts at a place in the evening at stays there for the whole night. Though there are mosquitoes around, you can manage to drive them away with some kachhua and a fan blowing them off. And of course the best place to get a little high and share some philosophical talks with your close friends. The early morning sunrise, sparkles the water and waaah what a beautiful way to get a morning. An early morning boat ride with lovely breakfast cooked by the chef onboard. And some fishermen row by to sell the fresh fish that they had just caught.

From the backwaters to the small hill Ponmudi. Liju's bro Jiju, drove us to the beautiful hill near by trivandrum which was a 3 hours drive. On the way there was a beautiful river flowing across with the perfect view. Do you remember the painting you used to make in your school days? What would you paint? A mountain, a small house, a river flowing by, a boat,
some clouds? It was perfectly the view.

Once we reached the top of the Ponmudi hills, it was amazing. The mountains and the clouds seemed to be playing hide and seek. It was so much fun to see the scene changing with every eye blink. At one time you could see the mountain shining with the golden sun rays, the second moment you could see it all covered up with clouds. This was nature at its best play.

But apart from all this. What I truly relished the most is the three homes where i stayed. It was fun to play with all the pets at Liju's - hens, cocks, goats, turkey, dog and my favourite Pakdu
(meaning 'little son/daughter' in mallu), the cute little ca
t. I still miss Pakdu :( Wish I could bring it along. Here is a glimpse of Pakdu playing with its own shadow :)

My last destination was Haris's place which was a couple of hours away from Calicut. So we took up an afternoon train from Cochin to Calicut, from Calicut took up a bus then an auto and then we climbed up the hill to his place in complete darkness. This was my first ever experience of trekking a hill in dark. His house is in a peaceful place up the hill with beautiful surroundings of trees, water falls, rocks. So in the morning, we went
to a near by pond which was covered up by huge rocks. The guys took a swim in it. I so wanted to take
a plunge in the pond, but it was a village and I didnt wanted to feel embarrassed. But Liju learnt to swim in the pool :)

On the right is the pic of the pond, if you tilt your head, you can actually see a bear in the reflection :P my imagination...

After the whole rejuvenating experience, I really didnt feel like getting back. With my course at NID getting finished, my course at UK getting postponed, bad personal life and decisions of careers. Everything was so bugging me, but believe me, this wonderful trip made me feel so peaceful, it completely rejuvenated me. Truly Kerala is God's own country.