It was our first visit to ‘God’s own Country’. We reached Kochi by air and took a cab to reach our destination Kumarkam situated at a distance of 90 Kilometers from the airport. Under normal road and traffic conditions we could have reached the place in about one and half hour, but due to narrow roads and traffic snarls, it took us more than double the time to reach the picturesque holiday resort situated amidst coconut groves in the backwaters of Kerela.
In this long, seemingly endless road journey, we had a young man as our cab-driver to give us company. He could barely understand Hindi, just thoda, thoda (a little) and we were absolutely blank in Malayalam. Despite the language barrier, we managed to strike a conversation with the taxi-driver. From the broken sentences that he spoke in English in his peculiar accent, we could make out that Mohan, the driver, was a proud father of two small children-a girl and a boy, aged eight and five respectively. We could sense a palpable pride in his voice as he narrated that his daughter was studying in an English medium school. That made me realize that English mania is everywhere in the country, cutting across all state boundaries. Mohan’s story was not unique. All the young drivers, we happened to contact on our sightseeing trips, had the same narrative. All of them were educated, if not graduates, had studied up to matriculation level. Also all these young men claimed to have not more than two children. Was it a coincidence? Not really, Kerela has the distinction of having the highest literacy rate in the country. The state has one of the lowest population growth rates in the country and small family is not an exception but a norm Kerala.
Another thing striking about Keralites’ is their love for the yellow metal. A visit to a renowned jewellery showroom made me realize how crazy people of Kerala, for that matter South Indians, are for gold. So crowded was the shop that I felt being in a vegetable market. Unlike the North where women have started avoiding wearing gold because of frequent snatching incidents, it was quite a surprise for me to see all women, from little girls to elderly females, adorning gold ornaments. Even not so well off seemed to be wearing gold, but if it was real or imitation jewellery, I had no way to verify.
I cannot confirm the purity of ornaments but I can vouch for kerela’s natural beauty. It has breath-taking natural beauty –an extensive coastline with serene beaches; palm fringed shores, vast expanse of tranquil backwaters and sprawling plantations on lush hills. The panorama is just out of the world! So amazing is the scenic beauty that I must say ‘God’s own country’ is not just a catchy tag-line but a reality.
Published in Canada Tabloid Summer 2016