You do not need to be a professional photographer to capture Kerala in photos. That’s the magic of this state in the south of India. A place that has beauty in such abundance that it looks like a canvas that is still wet, painted by somebody who was almost a poet. No wonder Kerala is known as God’s own country, it can besot any Gods. Picking these out of the stash of some thousands of Kerala photos was a task; thus all this delay in this post.
You know that, what they say about travelling alone – it screws up with your mind and all. Well, they, clearly, haven’t been to Kerala. It is one of those places that take you on a journey when you journey to it. Read a Wordsworth, talk to Scarlett of Gone With the Wind, wonder aloud about Rumi & Kabir, take a mirror – look into your eyes, find a purpose. Beauty is so inherent to Kerala that every sunset would want you to see one more the next evening, pick a Wordsworth again, talk to Scarlett again, fall in love with Rumi, Kabir and Ghalib too – again, chat with yourself again.
For every time you wished life to be slower, God added another canal to the backwaters’ labyrinth in Kerala.Tiny, colourful houses dot the banks; paddy fields spread for miles around; school-going kids wave at you from boats that also have goats for their co-passengers; sunshine keeps playing with the dark green water; schools of fish will come right till your boat and then rush back – look closely as there is so much happening on the backwaters in Kerala that its slow pace might just seem condescending.
I was quite asleep in the upper floor room of my homestay in Kochi when a deep, silken voice wafted in. Somebody was practicing a beautiful Konkani (yes, not Malayalam) number downstairs. And, as always, I followed it and stumbled into this 14 years girl, who was sitting in the balcony with her headphones on. Another one of the many young kids training in classical Indian music, if you must know, music and other arts are an integral and very important part of kids’ daily lives here. Most of the teenagers have a house teacher coming in for most of the evenings; and it is not limited to just the posher cities like Kochi. Go deep into the villages in the state and you would be awed.
“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” If you can connect to these words by Cummings, one such hidden beach in Kerala awaits you. No people, no fishing boats, nobody in sight for miles. This is where you are on a date, with the sea.
Go, fall in love.
Wear a crisp, white cotton shirt (like most people in Kerala do), hop across the fields to the backwaters, jump into a boat, pick up the oars and set sail – to a life that is fascinating in its pace. I did just that and wondered how I would ever get away from it all.
Do this and more if you can row; get the boat men in your favour though!
Coffee lovers, this is from Kerala, with love. Hot, steaming cuppas of filter coffee will get you a foodgasm. That, if the sea breeze, Bob Marley numbers (in almost all the shack-life cafes) and wonderful food, hasn’t already taken you for a ride. If you are not a fan of hot coffee, most of the cafes have coffee shakes, coffee sundaes and coffee salads(!) too.
Vintage weds Contemporary in Kerala. So, you will have sights like this old gramophone crackling with sound in some new hippie cafe; an Audi driving down the hilly roads, only to stop and let some elephants cross the road; a young lad crooning a Neil Young; centuries-old homes welcoming tourists from Europe – be a part of this Vintage-Contemporary wedding in Kerala, the whole world is invited.
With these swanky houseboats in place, Kerala has its own version of overlanding. Fitted with ACs, plush rooms, kitchens and all – these are perhaps the coolest way to explore the coastal regions of the state. Though one such trip might be a bit of a pinch of your budget, there is no equal to it. Where else would you get your morning tea served with a view like this!
Once, years back, while walking down a street in Rishikesh, I bumped into a holy man who was wearing a slithering, very much alive python around his neck. Not knowing that those are largely nonvenomous, I ran back up, away from the man and that python.
This man in the photo took the same fetish to a new high when he introduced me to his pet eagle! Not as scary as a python, this golden brown (but huge) bird came sweeping down to land on my arm, a fish from the backwaters clutched in its claw. I flipped yet again; mostly because of the then-alive fish it brought. It seemed like every third house in the region has these eagles for their pets.
Lovers of Enid Blyton would love this – a lazy afternoon spent sprawling in the fields, farmers humming a song that you understand but just cannot get, lanky kids racing their bikes on the muddy walkaways, notes of flute riding the wind from some far far away tree in some field, fisher women cracking jokes at each other, at themselves and at you if you have become friends with them.
All my childhood, I was one of those kids who spent afternoons chasing butterflies and finding shapes hidden in clouds – a polar bear there, a ship here, a castle over yonder. The good part is, I still do this, quite frequently. If you are one of my clan, these cloud-lovers, you will have a ball dance with clouds that come in hordes in Kerala. Visit the state during or around monsoons and you will have a lot to put your imagination to use.
If I have to give away an award to a state for having some of the most colourful festivals in India, I would give it to Kerala. If you too are a sucker for colours, festivities, huge gatherings, local music, gorgeous food, do not miss attending a festival in Kerala. Clicked this photo during the Irupathattam onam festival when huge idols of bulls are taken to the ancient Oachira Temple in Kollam. Saw more than 50 such giant bull idols, looking quite smug from the back of trucks and tractors that carried them to the temple.
If poetry could be a place, it would be Varkala. This clifftop wonder near Kovalam sees lesser crowds, more astonishing surf waves and landscapes without which your collection of Kerala photos would stay incompleter. Every evening is an affair here. This is Kerala’s best and apt competition for Goa.
I cannot pick a winner, can you?
Another one from Varkala, a place that people say (and I do not deny) I’m in love with. Great food, great music, happy people, hotels and hostels for all budgets, a rocking nightlife scene (they play jazz too), smashing greenery, a lighthouse, a buzzing community of poets, writers, painters, photographers – this place has everything that spells a better life to me.
So, if you like what I like, do not skip this one.
If you liked reading this, you would love to read my post on the best things to do in Kerala.You can also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and tips for visiting Kerala.
And yeah, do leave your feedback for this post in the comment section below, I always reply Here’s some bonus for those who read till the very end, a smashing cover of traditional Kerala Boat song “Kuttunadan Punjayile” by D.C. based singer and songwriter Vidya Vox, featuring Jomy George and Shankar Tucker.