Monday, January 12, 2009

Kerala, the good, bad (no ugly)

My holiday destination for years. Here is what is good and bad for the tourist in Kerala.

First the good things:

1. Water - Probably the no.1 reason why good health and life are supported in the state. I have a friend who did a project in Switzerland who told me that water in public fountains in Switzerland were tested and treated before they are allowed to circulate in the fountains because even if a child were to accidentally consume it, that child shouldn't fall sick. In Chalakudy and in Aratupuzha and in most places in Kerala people, young, adult or old consume water from wells. This water is directly consumed without any treatments such as reverse osmosis, or adding electrolytes or even basic filtering. The reason for jet black long hair of the girls and women, their healthy glowing skin and the longevity of life is enough testimony of the quality of water. Malayalees are known to take multiple baths and I can see the reason why. The irony is that there is water shortages in parts of the state but they are easily tackled as the state is abundant in rivers, lakes, ponds and backwaters (though all backwaters aren't good sources of potable water) providing a good source of drinking water.

And here's something you may not know of the minerals in the state. Remember the periodic table we studied in Chemistry way back in School and remember the Lanthanides and Actinides. I was told by a person whose work is related to soil and research that all the Lanthanides and Actinides of the periodic table exist in the soils of Kerala. Wonder if that is adding to the quality of the water as Iron does to the water in Orissa.

Water in rivers, waterfalls, ponds, lakes and backwaters feed the healthy flora and fauna in the state and adds to its natural beauty. I remember drinking a tender coconut in Aratupuzha and I had to pause and take turns to finish drinking all the water in it. There was so much sweet water in it that it could easily serve and satisfy two adults.

2. Civic Sense - Don't know if it is the by-product of more literacy in the state but there seems to be a sense of "let's-do-things-better" all over the place. It is only getting better each time I visit Kerala. Having traveled a bit this time I was surprised that I couldn't notice even a single pothole on the roads.

3. Great Auto fares - After being ripped off in Chennai (it is even worse in the temple city of Chidambaram) it is such a pleasant thing in Kerala to travel by Auto.

4. Politeness - If you want to hear "Annae" or brother in Chennai forget it. You will have to go far beyond the outskirts to hear the word. I could easily hear "Cheta, Chechi" in most places in Kerala although this wasn't the case in the past where I have had some unfriendly experiences.

5. General congeniality of the girls and ladies - I have always felt this every time I visit Kerala. I am reminded of the words of Nair, played by the late Muthuraman in KB's "Ethirneechal", "Edo Ningalude naatil one Pennine Moonu per premikkum. Njangalude naatil moonu pennugal oru aale premikkum". Translated - "In your place three guys fall in love with one girl but in our place three girls fall in love with a guy." I will not accept the more ladies to men ratio in Kerala, as the reason for this.

Bad -

1. Businesses starting late and closing early - You wonder, don't these guys want Business? I walk into an internet cafe at 8:30 PM in Chalakudy and the guy tells me politely that they are closing in 10 minutes. In the mornings be prepared for shops and businesses to open at 9.00, 9.30 or even 10.00 A.M. Compare that to the idly shops in Madurai where you can get tasty idlis even at 1.00 A.M. But surprisingly second shows in the cinemas in Kerala are full with entire families bringing even children and babies. In "Gods own country" only the temples open early.

2. Food at Restaurants - One major problem for people from Chennai who are used to the smaller and polished "ponni" or parboiled rice is with the fat rice grain served in Kerala which is in fact the more healthier. Although I don't have a problem this is a deterrent for many outside Kerala at meals. Though I didn't visit any restaurants this time, the overall taste in many restaurants also needs to improve.

3. Taxi - Just the opposite of Auto fares is unjustifiably exorbitant. Let us say you are making a one way trip from Chalakudy to Ernakulam. The taxi charge varies from Rs.450 to Rs.500 for an air conditioned Ambassador car but you will have to pay Rs.900 or Rs.1000 i.e double the fare. Why? Because the driver claims that he "may" have to come back to Chalakudy without a rental trip. So the trick is to retain the taxi for your entire trip. However you may not be making round trips all the time. Check out the pre-paid taxi and Auto options at stations like Thrisoor.

4. Milk - In our old Tharavadu we used to have cows and Grandfather used to personally look after them. But those were things of the past. Having used to milk direct from the cow for all my life tea and coffee don't taste the way they do in Chennai. I am not sure if Milma can be compared to Aavin too.

These are my immediate observations. Add to my lists if you feel like.


Biju said...

Hi Subhash,
Great to see you back after the holidays! Hope you had a nice time.

Bang on about the auto fares. I've had very bad experiences with auto drivers in Chennai as well as in B'lore.

Regarding the Bad... :)
We've travelled a lot of times from Kochi Airport to Palakkad, and in the highway, rarely you will find a good restaurant. We've tried most of them and all turned out to be pathetic. The only options were either to go into the trichur town, which will again eat up a considerable amount of time or to wait till we reach home :)
And yes, the taxis... they always charge for the return journey also. Even though they say that they will charge Rs.7 per Km, we end up paying Rs.14, if we are traveling only one way.

And yes, would like to add something to your first point. Completely agree with your point, but just wonder how long it will stay like that! Sometimes I feel that the resources are being exploited more than what can be afforded of! If you look at Bharathapuzha near places like Lakkidi (you can see it while travelling by train), you'll know what I mean. There is no sand at all, and most of the river is covered with some wild bushes! I still remember vividly during my childhood days, how great it was playing in the river!
Eventhough, the government has officially banned taking sand from the rivers, still people manage to do that and smuggle it out.

Subash S L said...

Nice to hear from you Biju. How will I ever forget Lakkidi. The Tata Aleppey Express train stopped there for almost 45 minutes. I do remember seeing a dry bed of the river with bushes all around. I took a pic but deleted it because there was hardly any water. In Aratupuzha they have been quarrying the sand for ages. I remember boatmen going down into the river with a basket and then loading the boats with river sand. So much has been removed that it gets muddy. Only rains can bring in more sand. Even our rivers aren't spared.