Nature, Culture and Simplicity of a Malayali
The South Indian state of Kerala is often referred to as God’s own country. There are a few mythological and historical reasons for the same and all of them sound plausible. Our own reasons for calling it by such a name is because of the beautiful green regions, its rich culture, its flora and fauna and primarily its people. It would not be wrong to say that its diverse population while divided by multiple ethnic groups are in fact united by a common trait that people of Kerala are Human by Nature.
We have been to Kerala a few times and our own experiences bear testimony to this aspect. It is said that it is the people that make the place. Many countries or places are strikingly beautiful, owing to its scenic beauty, historical monuments, modern facilities and cultural richness. However, it is the people that make places memorable and so is the case with Kerala.
Let us look at some deep rooted traits of the people of Kerala, humans by nature, based on a series of our experiences. For a change we will not write about things to do in Kerala!
Autorickshaw in Trivandrum
The first time I went to Kerala, was by train to Trivandrum. At the station I got into an auto with apprehension. These were days before Ola and Uber and electronic meters. If you didn’t know, in India you always got into an auto with apprehension because you never knew how fast the meter would rake up charges or what circuitous route the driver has in store for you. It is the case with most cities in India except Mumbai (and may be a couple of others about which I don’t know).
The first thing that surprised me was, that the driver could converse in Hindi and also knew a smattering of English. This was truly a first that an auto-driver was talking in Hindi in South India! All through my ride he was very polite and gave me a few tips about things to do and in fact gave me information of how to get to Kovalam beach by bus, if I wanted to save money.
The ride ended and I remember paying by meter a small sum for the 30 minute ride. He gave me his business card (!) if I ever wanted his services again, during my stay.
Ottan Thullal and Kathakali Artists
Ottan thullal is possibly one of the precursors to Kathakali. Katha means Story and Kali means to play. Ottan thullal, is an age-old classical dance form in which the performers enact stories from Puranas and legends and other folk stories. These dance forms involve elaborate colourful costumes, headdresses, masks (for kathakali), facial expressions and exaggerated movements set to songs, music and percussion.
We were lucky to talk to the artists and see the preparation for a performance. The attention to detail was incredible. We were told that it takes several years of dedicated training for an artist to be able to give a public performance. It takes 2 to 4 hours for an artist to get ready before a performance, which itself may last one to many hours. Mr M Kannan, an exponent of this form, took us through the various aspects of the dance. The face paints are made of vegetable dyes, vermilion, charcoal and other easily available things which are prepared on the face directly. Just imagine, the artist has to be patient and immobile while all this is going on.
These days many women are also taking up Kathakali as a profession. This was once an all-male bastion, not anymore. It just shows how Kerala people move with times and are progressive in thoughts and actions.
The Keralites take their culture quite seriously and the dedication by the artists for every performance stands testimony.
Interview with the General Secretary of YMCA, Trivandrum
We stayed at the YMCA, Trivandrum, during one of our visits and we got to talk to the General Secretary. He was an affable and down to earth gentleman. He works hard to ensure hostel-staying boys or the short term visitors like us enjoy this beautiful place right in the heart of Trivandrum.
As per him, this one of the first YMCA in the country that allowed women to stay alone, when women travelling alone was not so prevalent. He was absolutely confident about the safety aspects for lone women in Kerala in general and in his hostel, in particular.
He was open to our few suggestions for improving the services and promised to look into them.
Not to speak about Kerala’s world famous Ayurveda treatments and massages in every corner of the state. We have met a few excellent masseuse and masseurs who take great interest in first knowing about our body type, problems and then try to treat them. The personal and professional approach is what wins our hearts.
All of them have years of experience and knowledge of human anatomy to prescribe the right ayurvedic treatment.
This happened during Nisha’s visit to Kumarakom with some international bloggers. One of the Australians in the group did not see his luggage (which included his passport) in the boat when they were going towards a resort.
There was a confusion for a while as to whether it should have arrived earlier by another boat. This is when the resort team decided to take the matter in highest priority. Within a few hours they had traced the missing bag and returned it to the owner. I am sure the airlines should take some lessons in tracing missing bags from them and the hospitality industry about how to be agile to the circumstances and change the priority if needed while providing quality service to customers.
Ride to the Airport
Another time we were waiting for our taxi ride to the airport. The cab was inordinately delayed and eventually informed the hotel reception, he was stuck in traffic and would be able to make it. Just then a young gentleman came down to checkout. After checking out formalities were completed, the receptionist asked him since he was going to the airport in his private taxi, would he be considerate enough to give us a ride.
The receptionist and the gentleman, both strangers, made sure that we would not miss our flight. Keralites are quite helpful and often will go out of their way to help others.
Keeping in view the sustainable energy and ecological factors, Kerala people have built Kochi international airport, without government funds!
This airport is the world’s first solar energy driven airport.
While Keralites like to protect their heritage, they are sensitive enough to modernize where it makes an impact.
People of Kerala, Human by Nature
All these attributes are so characteristic of folks here that although divided by religions, they are completely united when it comes to ethics, hard work, enterprise, heritage, tradition, cuisine, simplistic but healthy & hygienic living etc. For them it is Malayali culture. For us it is Human by nature.
Somewhere in our mind we conclude that it is the Malayali-ness of the people that ensured 100% literacy in the state. Perhaps the only state to achieve this in India.
Not for nothing it is called God’s Own Country!
Do you agree?
The video “Human by Nature” .
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* This article is written in collaboration with Kerala Tourism Board, for their #humanbynature Campaign, however, the views expressed are our own.