I had been to Kerala only once before, to the coastal town of Kovalam. Must’ve been about 12 or 13 at the time. It was last amongst the four places we had covered in as many days. A hectic trip, to say the least. As for Kovalam, I’m certain there were some good moments, but instead of white beaches or palm trees, my lasting memory of that place and state comprised mostly of a foul, omnipresent stench of fish and a severe lack of vegetarian food.
Clearly that wouldn’t do. In October last year I had a chance to set things right and find out for myself what Kerala felt like in 2012. So I took it, and here’s my account:
The trip was going to be short so we decided to visit some border towns along the Western Ghats. This time around, Kumily and Munnar. Kumily (or Thekkady) serves as the satellite town and gateway to the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Munnar is a popular hill station known for its cardamom and tea plantations.
We had been warned to expect rain at Thekkady but that didn’t quite prepare us for what was in store. When it rains in Kerala, it pours. Raincoats and umbrellas (and especially any makeshift garments) are pointless. When it started raining inside the jungle I was naïve enough to expect the thick forest canopy to act as a shield. Instead, it conspires with the dripping leaves and the rainwater streams to ensure maximum drenching. And it goes on raining. Doesn’t bother with silly teaser drizzles or confused mini showers, just cloudburst. Many an unfulfilled desire of बारिश में भीगना were finally realised.
All this rainwater doesn’t just rinse foreign passersby, it supports an entire ecosystem. Life thrives around this abundance of freshwater. The entire landscape is painted green. Thick, lush, deep, dark and unblemished; wild, unordered and unruly. Greens of all kind. Green everywhere!
Then there was Munnar. Apparently the word Munnar stands for the confluence of three rivers. Sure enough, there were the three mountain streams. But aside from that aspect, the town itself felt very familiar. This was not entirely surprising given Munnar’s Colonial past and my acquaintance with another former British hill station not too far off from Munnar. The real charm of this place for me, however, lay outside town. Drive out a few kilometres and you will encounter lakes and dams, gardens and meadows, woods and bee hives; slope after slope of neatly manicured plantations, tea estates and cardamom estates; mists and clouds and horses and waterfalls… and sooner or later, rain.
So, what was Kerala like in 2012?
Green and wet.