Lockdown has made me stay indoors for longer than I’d expected. So much so that I started yearning for mountains, beaches and road trips at the same time. Honestly, with nothing much to do indoors, there weren’t really any ideas in my head for this blog which had been lying dormant since February 2020 (when I cycled around the wetlands of Pong Dam in Himachal).
A massive writers block was staring me in the face and I knew it was growing bigger with every passing day but thanks to Kerala Tourism for this opportunity that nudged me out of the abysmal hole that I had found myself in.
Call from Kerala Tourism for #HumanByNature campaign took me on a walk down the memory lane. But like this never ending lockdown, my laziness too knew no bounds and I kept on delaying writing about it.
Until 15th August 2020
I’ll begin by taking you back in time, not a little but quite long back. 15 August, 1927 was the day when Odakkal Mohammad was born in Mundappalam in Kerala. India wasn’t a free country back then and little Mohammad was a staunch Gandhian. He protested against the arrest of Gandhi Ji by wearing a black badge to his school. For which, he was thrown out of the school obviously. Our schools haven’t really welcomed protesting students…or have they?
Mohammad, who wasn’t little anymore kept protesting against the British tyranny and participated in the Royal Naval Revolt of 1946. He was discharged from the service for he stood for his country and his countrymen. After standing up for his country on numerous occasions, Mohammad made his living as a tour guide in Agra for many years and finally decided to come back home.
He settled in Kerala finally. How long could you stay away from the place you were born, that too when it happens to be God’s own country? What more could you hope to see when you had seen everything that is to be seen?
And all this reminds me of Nazir. He wasn’t a rebellion like Mohammad, after all what was the need? India was a free country when Nazir was born. He went to Saudi for work, like numerous other Keralites. But like Mohammad, he too came back because he had found his calling while living thousands of miles away from home. As they say all roads lead to Rome or may be home. He realized that he wanted to work for his people back home.
Around 2016, I was looking for a place to stay that had a local feel to it and Nazir’s little homestay literally in the middle of Ashtamudhi Lake was where I found what I was looking for. More than his home-stay, it was Nazir’s story that caught my interest. Having lived a comfortable life in Saudi, he kept yearning for his home. Not because he despised his life abroad. He told me how his post-work life in Saudi was all about devising plans to get home. He thought of many ideas but nothing seemed to be working.
And finally he decided to go traditional. As they say these days “vocal for local”, even before Modi Ji coined this term, he was heading home riding the #atmanirbharbharat express. What I liked the best about his little setup was proximity to nature and the way he had absorbed natural elements into his home-stay.
Walls made of rammed earth which was sourced locally.
Doors made of wood that was taken from trees that got uprooted while constructing the home-stay.
Banana idlis made of bananas that were planted in the open courtyard.
Seating stools made of stone boulders excavated while leveling the ground.
Kitchens so designed that the water would directly seep into Earth rather and directly contributing to ground water recharge.
It was an exhilarating experience for me. On top of that the awe-inspiring view of Ashtamudhi Lake surrounding the home-stay. The tranquil waters of the lake reminded me of homecoming of Mohammad. Of Nazir. Of numerous others who landed in Kerala from time to time and made this incredibly beautiful place their home. Listening to Nazir talk about his childhood, his days away from Kerala was indeed overwhelming. And the way he narrates his homecoming certainly looks like a divine intervention joining the random dots of his life turning it into a straight line which had Kollam written all over it.
Exploring the bylines of Kerala towns and villages is also an experience in itself. You feel welcome there, unlike some places where you get those, ‘why are you here?’ vibes. People are friendly, helpful and if you ask even a random person on the street, not only will you get the precise directions but also the best shop in the neighborhood for a particular item down to your budget estimate.
And little nothings which are a part and parcel of lives of people living around Ashtamudhi Lake but for us they were altogether an exhilarating experience. Like the supplies being taken from one locality to another in a boat. Little boats disturbing the serene waters of Ashtamudhi while bringing order to households in terms of newspapers, milk, vegetables, et al. A natural barrier which at first may appear hostile or non conducive to civilization acts as a lifeline for countless households situated on its banks, at times saving precious kilometers and lives. Such is the ingenuity of human nature converting the adversity to its own advantage.
We had an interesting incident while looking for spices in Kollam. We asked at least two different guys, just random people on streets. Both suggested same shops and plus points of each shop. Its like shopping in the backyard of your hometown with same confidence.
My Kerala experience, and a first one at that, was really an overwhelming experience and whenever this lockdown/corona menace is over, I’d like to pay a visit to God’s own country over and over again.
For one visit cannot do justice to this gem tucked away at the shores of Arabian sea. It has so many things to offer to people across its length and breadth. From its pristine beaches to misty mountains to verdant plantations of spices, to forests teaming with wildlife and flora, to lazy days in house-boats in back waters savoring mouth watering cuisine, renegades of Kathakalli and innumerable temples. You name it and Kerala has got it. I definitely hope to spend more days in Kerala experiencing many moods of this ever changing… and will keep on coming back as I know one can never claim to have seen it all while you are in Kerala!
Kerala – God’s Own Country
the article is sponsored by Kerala Tourism