Is Kerala “God’s Own Country”???

Thanks to a family wedding in Trivandrum recently, got the opportunity to take a short vacation break at Kerala. Yet again. With both my parents hailing from Kottayam a district in Central Kerala, I have lost the count of times we have holidayed in God’s Own Country. As a child, our annual vacations would begin and end with sojourns to Kottayam. Throw in atleast one annual visit for some family occasion, Annual Sabarimala trip, 2-3 visits a year to Kerala was a given. That was till I got busy chasing entry to a “professional” course. After that the frequency of visits reduced. But the craving to visit hasn’t.

The initial visits to Kerala were long before it became “the Kerala” of today. It was just one’s own country. Beautiful, Green and generally serene.  The swaying coconut palms, photogenic countryside, colourful Kathakali,… were all there but we were never wide-eyed by those that time, as we are today!!! Swimming in the river, visit to coconut groves, sipping of tender coconuts, ride in the country boat, visit to rubber estates, seeing Kathakali performances in the night, feeding elephants in the house, watching highly traditional rituals in the temple,…,.. were all but quite the usual stuff we did year after year during annual vacations.

GOK

Somewhere in the late 90’s and the turn of this century was when the word Kerala started getting a new dimension. Coincidentally that was the time when my visits reduced in frequency. Am not sure which of these made a difference. Was it the superbly executed marketing campaign positioning Kerala as “God’s Own Country? Or was it Arundati Roy’s Booker winner –‘God of small thingsset in a small place called Aymanam in Kottayam that kick started the romanticism with Kerala? Nobody knows or may be God only knows 🙂  The next we hear was that Kerala has been ranked among the top 10 “Paradises on Earth“ by National Geographic Traveller! After this the Gods haven’t stopped smiling on their own country. Tourists by the millions have been ever since checking-in to the state – both Desi and the foreigner types. The small strips of waterways extending from the sea to the land became the “beautiful backwaters of Kerala”, the country boat which was perched from the roof and idling in everyone’s house transformed into a rustic Vallam (boat) and started fetching money in thousands if you are open to parting the same to hotels and travel companies. Spices like pepper, cardamom,..,… which were grown in the backyard became “Exotic products from the Spice village”!!!

Is Kerala really God’s Own Country? This question has been haunting me for quite some time now.  The last few visits to the state have helped in unravelling the answer to the question.

First up, am yet to locate another place with smaller confines like Kerala with sea on one side, hill stations on the other, a vast of green forest cover in between, water ways which are calm and landspaces which are clean. Having said that even in India, it’s not just Kerala which has been blessed with the bounty of Nature. There are quite a few other states as well. For example, Kerala’s immediate neighbour Karnataka immediately springs to my mind. But no other place has been able to leverage what it has, better than Kerala , “Gujarat’s Khushboo” and “Ajab Gajab Madhya Pradesh” notwithstanding!!!  Having visited quite a few other states in India I can vouch that Kerala is the most tourist friendly state in the country.

For a state with low or no manufacturing activity to speak of, the spurt in tourism came as God’s own blessing. May be for that reason, Keralites imbibed tourism as a possible panacea to joblessness in the state with little production activity. Fortunately tourism being a service industry has been spared of the ills of trade unionism atleast as I write this. The near complete literacy and more than that being a highly NRI populated state, the awareness levels on cleanliness and environment are very high. Tourism in Kerala is well-organized and touts few. Unlike the neighboring Tamilnadu where people have abhorred Hindi as a language for long, Kerala never did that. So the locals manage to speak in Hindi with visitors from the North though in highly accented version.  Plastic free zones are indeed free of plastics. Well, almost.

So gradually Kerala has started upselling itself from a plain vanilla tourist destination to panoply of value added offerings. Ecotourism, Ayurveda tourism, Spiritual tourism, Plantation tourism, Elephant tourism, Wellness tourism… ,.. and what have you.  In a product like tourist state most important is the experience of the visitor and the subsequent word of mouth or in today’s lingo viral communication.  Who is the brand ambassador for “Apple’s I phone”?? Is it a Bollywood actor? Cricketer? Nope. It’s you and me. A great experiential product sells by positive word of mouth of its users. So has been Kerala. Check this thumbs up from CNN!!!

So the answer to that question – Is Kerala really God’s Own Country” could very well be a big YES!!! If you have not visited, plan one asap. No, I am not paid for writing this!!!

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Postscript : The other thing for which Kerala is popular other than tourism are the “Mallu jokes” which is slowly threatening to beat the “Sardar jokes” which have been ruling the party circuit for long. Zimbly because Mallu jokes are vary Zimble, fandastic and vary funny and Goad’s Own Gontry is the best 🙂 🙂 🙂

Also watch – “Water Colour by God” – ad film by ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan

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27 thoughts on “Is Kerala “God’s Own Country”???

  1. Ranjit Gurkar says:

    Well written Anand!

    I discovered the beauty of Kerala in 1978 when I was based at Bangalore covering South India.
    I used to travel by train and my first stop was at TELK Angamally! My ticket was booked for Ernakulam, but since the train slowed down at Angamally I took my bags and jumped out!
    A young accountant took me to a nearby hut that served Karimeen! I liked it so much , I ordered a second plate, with clear instruction that it shoul be served only after I had polished off the first serving!
    TELK had the first authentic Xerox Copier in Kerala! VSSC was to be the largest install site for Xerox with literally over a 100 Xerox Copiers!
    I used to be glued to the window seat on the train taking in pictures of Kerala at dawn and dusk! I had suitcase full of negatives !!!!!!!
    I have also prayed at the Padmanabha Temple in the august company of the Maharaja of Travancore and his daughter & son in law ( unnoticed by them off course!)

    The Pandal Restaurant on M G Road in Ernakulam for unlimited non- veg meals and the canteen at Chitra Thirunal Medical College ( famous for affordable and delicious beef curry chapathi) we’re soon to become favorites for Modi Xerox personnel.

    Driving in at dawn by bus into Wellingdon TN, the night sky in Jadcherla AP, the Blue Mountains around Palghat , the campus at Bharathidasan University are other beautiful sights I will never forget! The meals served at Devaprabha in Palghat is also memorable!

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  2. Bindu says:

    Well written anand. As u said, there was a time when we use to visit Kerala 2 – 3 times a year and we took the beauty of kerala for granted. Now when the visits r becoming rare and tourism being promoted very well i think our next holiday will be in “God’s own country”.

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  3. Shiv Muttoo says:

    Nice article, will hopefully make it to Kerala soon. India gets about 7 million foreign inbound travelers annually and the number has been increasing. We need to get some serious global spenders coming in to help boost our tourism revenues.

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  4. Geetha Krishnan says:

    Lovely write up :D. Enjoyed reading immensely. I always say that Kerala is my most favorite holiday destination in the whole world. My appa has been born and brought up in Wynad and I love that place so much though have not visited for ages there. We do go to Kerala every other year. As you said, simbly cannot resist the gogonut oil benena bejjis and chips maybe 😉

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