For the longest time, I didn’t really see what the big deal was about visiting Kerala. When people talk about going there as if it is an exotic holiday destination I find it slightly amusing, considering it is my parents’ home and I’ve always gone there as a kid during summer vacations.
Of course, when I went as a child, it basically meant spending half my time in a white ambassador, being driven around from place to place and visiting countless relatives and giving them “gifts from the gulf” (just call me Santa Claus! :P). I was used to getting pinched on my cheeks and them asking me if I remembered them from when I was 2 yrs old (I didn’t,duh!).
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself ! My grandma lives in the middle of a sleepy little village, in an old house with a lovely large verandah where you can sit and watch the heavens open up during the monsoon rains! The raindrops fall thick and heavy, and I used to watch the the earth soak it up and then overflow into puddles and little rivulets of brown water that eventually get soaked up by the thirsty trees. Guess that explains why the place is so vividly green!
The front yard was shaded by huge mango and jackfruit trees and there were lovely bushes of jungle geraniums, hibiscus and fragrant jasmine flowers bordering the yard. Beyond the border was a tangle of wild trees and bushes and I was asked to never venture out there on my own (for fear of snakes!). The flora and fauna spilling out of the place was amazing! For a kid who lived in the desert in a tiny little apartment where the view had nothing more interesting to offer than sand coloured buildings and parked cars, this was all very fascinating!
We had all kinds of fruits and vegetables growing in our “garden”. My aunt used to pluck pineapples from the heart of the thorny shrubs and make me the most delicious pineapple juice ever! It was thick and pulpy (yeah, I like pulp!) and sweet as honey! I used to be on a steady diet of fruits there – jackfruits, custard-apples, guavas, rose-apples, bananas, mangoes… oh! the mangoes!
My granma’s sister who lived up the hill (a 2 min climb away) from her, used to have a little vegetable garden where she used to grow fench beans and tomatoes and chillies and root vegetables like yam and tapioca. She used to potter around the garden in the mornings after breakfast, to figure out what to make for lunch! I used to follow her around, see her pluck the fresh veggies and turn it into a lovely meal in the afternoon – delicious!
We used to keep chickens and rabbits and goats and cows, not to mention dogs… and I used to “help” take care of them by “walking the goat” and trying to milk the cow (didn’t work!).
It doesn’t feel like that anymore when I go to Kerala. I feel quite the outsider – the stubbornly-single, independent(said in a bad way) girl whom everyone immediately places as ” not from around here”. The endless questions that intrude on my personal space and defy the bounds of social norms – Why are you not married? Why is your hair brown? (! ! Born that way?!) When are you buying a car for your mother? (Why the hell would I wanna do that after the way she drove here?!)
We have a flat in the city now, which is where I spent most of my annual 2-week long trips there. Things are very different now.
But I get why people want to go there I guess. The place is beautiful, in a wild, untamed way. The beaches are still lovely, the weather is balmy, the food is as amazing as ever. And the monsoons still beat down on us like it always used to.
I guess the major change then, is me.