By Devashree Sanghvi.
From the serene backwaters of Alleppey to the lush greenery of Kumarakom, the misty tea plantations in Munnar to the untouched sandy beaches of Kovalam to the spectacular architecture of Kochi, Kerala is blessed with the best of what mother earth has to offer.
This vibrant and diverse region is truly God’s own country. While the beauty and diversity of Kerala is well known, what really sets this place apart is it’s warm and gentle people.
Kerala is endowed with a variety of different cultures, ideologies and faiths but one thing that is common amongst it all is the humbleness and simplicity of the local people and their strong connect with nature.
This is what makes Kerala so unique and different from all other places and draws me back to it again and again.
I’ve had a chance to visit Kerala a couple of times in my life and its unmatched beauty and hospitality makes it one of my favourite destinations in India.
I’ve met the most down to earth fishermen who work tirelessly on rough seas to feed us all, elephant trainers who inspire us to believe that all beings, humans and animals must be treated respectfully, cotton saree clad ‘amma’s’ who will welcome you into their homes with warm hearts, vibrant ‘Kathakali’ dancers who’s souls are as gorgeous as their art, street vendors in Kochi selling the most beautiful artefacts with happy smiles and so many more amazing humans in God’s own country.
One of my favourite memories of Kerala is of visiting a friend’s house in Kochi for Onam,
their annual harvest festival full of vibrant dancing, soulful music, delicious food and lots of love.
I was welcomed by her family with open arms and quickly blended in with all the fun
preparations for Onam. From learning how to make a lovely floral rangoli (Pookalam) to
watching mesmerizing local dance performances, witnessing exciting boat rides to dressing up in elegant white and gold sarees, getting spellbound by the special pooja’s at ancient local temples to indulging in the famous Onam Sadhya over a large banana leaf, I absolutely loved my experience in Kochi during Onam.
I have fond memories of sneaking into the kitchen and watching my friend’s amma whip up lip smacking avial, sambhar, pachadi, fresh banana chips and more for the sadhya, teaching me some lovely recipes along the way.
Onam is truly a festival of love, bonding and a feeling of oneness with everyone else. Never once did I feel like I’m not from Kerala, it felt like home to me.
Another memorable experience that I recollect was on a traditional wooden houseboat on the serene backwaters of Alleppey. I had an inspiring conversation with the boat driver who was dressed in a simple lungi and shirt with a lovely smile.
We spoke about life in Alleppey, how tourism had really given a boost to their economy and how he loves meeting new people from all over the world. He also told me that he climbs up trees, breaks coconuts and sells them at 5am every morning followed by driving the houseboat to make a living.
It is truly inspiring to see these people work so hard all day but still never stop smiling and make you feel welcome to their land like a part of their own family.
That day, on the magical wooden houseboat with the soft sounds of the waves, the swaying of the symmetrical coconut trees, the reflection of the pink skies on the crystal-clear waters, I felt a feeling of pure happiness, belonging and calmness.
Whether it’s the flurry of activity in Kochi or the lovely chaos of the local markets, children rushing to school on small boats over the backwaters or the Kathakali dancers gliding about in their striking costumes, the sip of fresh coconut water offered by a passing stranger on a hot day or the laughter of young boys playing football in the mud, from the hardworking tea harvesters and fishermen with shy smiles to the bright eyes of street food vendors, Kerala will make you believe in the power of human connections once again.
Every time I visit Kerala I’m awed by the overwhelming love I get from the people here. The humans here are truly one with nature, they respect their land, their culture, and most importantly treat all living beings with warmth and generosity that is absolutely amazing. They are simple people with big hearts that make Kerala, God’s own country. It is truly Human by Nature and I can’t wait to go back this year to what now feels like home.
Article written in collaboration with Kerala Tourism Board.
Take a look at this amazing video they’ve made on Kerala : Human By Nature :