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In love with God’s own country!

September 11, 2014

I snuck out during sun set on the eve of the final day of Onam. I was going to Kerala, not because I chose to go on a vacation with a bunch of other college buddies, but on a strictly official trip. I was to meet a fellow researcher in Ecology, receive about a hundred fish from him, pack it all up and deliver it back safely to Bangalore. Seemed like a pretty much simple job at the outset. But little did I know that I was about to experience a dynamic paradigm shift in my views about life in Kerala!

Thirteen hours of train travel had assured me a long slumber and quite a long period for gazing out into the open grasslands, water-bodies and paddy fields that my small window would allow. While I kept myself busy for some period of time reading a random book on my phone, a glimpse of lovely scenery enveloping the train on both it’s sides let loose in me the (amateur) closet poet and my thoughts traveled through my hand and the ink of the pen I wielded and spilled onto the blank back region of an old folded and now invalid train ticket…

The Train

The train, fast, on it’s wrought iron wheels,

Whizzes against the mountain breeze.

Announcing it’s arrival to the vast green plains,

Startling the early pigeons and cranes.

Breaking through the paddy fields,

Wishing ‘Hello’ to the new-born seeds.

Pushing forward towards the destination,

All along with none any altercation.

Stopping at dull green platforms and

Sandy strips across the land,

In sunny, rainy and cold windy days,

The train does not halt any-time to laze

The train, fast, on it’s wrought iron wheels,

Whizzes against the mountain breeze.

Getting off at a seemingly deserted platform albeit for about twenty others from the same train, I asked around and boarded an auto-rickshaw to meet my fellow researcher. 15 kilometres of pothole filled roads with more than half of the tar and gravel leached away welcomed my arrival with a jerky ride. On reaching his house, I noticed that the house was small but had sufficient lawn space. A jack tree and coconut tree were in full season and I controlled my mouth from watering. On entry into the house, I noticed an old Gramophone, currently not in use; an old cable TV, showing some movie from the sixties or seventies; old electrical switch-boards, probably decades old; and old furniture. The contents of the house reeked of antiquity and consumeristic backwardness. It was as if time had stopped in the nineties in this small region. Having been used to the urban hustle and bustle, this little place gave me quite a shock. Before I could recover from the shock, I was served the traditional Aappams for breakfast after which my friendly host took me out on his mud plastered Apache RTR160 out on a tour of his place. Ah! The numerous wonderful rivers, streams, rivulets and creeks! The greenery! The distant hills! The cool shade and the warm sun! It was heaven for me on this Vatican of the East! Having been exposed to the rural water-transport dominated Kerali scenarios only on the silver screen (especially Cheran’s “Autograph” movie), seeing even kids manoeuvre slim boats with precise balancing and poise filled me with awe! My host showed me water logged paddy fields which would be harvestable only during one season of the year after removing the water out of the fields using large motor assisted pumps. He showed me the long “Iruttukuththi” or “Odilvalam” boats of yore, which were used by the military to pierce (“kuththi”) through the darkness (“Iruttu”) in silence while going to battle after the common-folk went to sleep. He showed me a bridge where the community would assemble during a night of floods and cook up food with much fun and frolic without difference in caste or hierarchy. The essence of Communism at the roots of Kerala illustrated so wonderfully!

He showed the local community church of St. George. While my view of St. Jordi in Barcelona was that of a white man (with a black moustache) in his shining armour riding gracefully on a magnificent horse spearing through the heart of a large vicious dragon, St. George of Edathua resembled a shorter than average black bearded white man riding on a mule, trying to pry open the mouth of a sufficiently oversized crocodilian beast. Nevertheless, the church of Edathua was itself an example of art and religion. My host explained how the Calcium rich powder extracted from ground Clam shells was mixed with the mucous rich water from large tanks containing large shoals of the snakehead fish (Channidae), to get plaster so strong that it is almost impossible to hammer a nail into the wall once the plaster sets.  The palace of Thiruvananthapuram, he informs, also was constructed in the same manner as cement was not prevalent in those times. Three levels of timber wood covered with the sand from the riverbed of Pampa to obtain a strong basement for the church is still so string that not a crack appears in the church! It is indeed fascinating to note that even the Taj mahal was constructed on a similar base as the Yamuna would not let a mighty construction on her banks. The asbestos roofed and protected grave of the saint of Edathua, Thomachchen, is also found within the premises of this church.

edathua_church

(St. George of Edathua)

A small town flourishes within a stone’s throw away from the church. After getting two buckets with lids, we proceeded back to my host’s home for the packaging. Before the second important meal of the day, my host’s father, a man in his middle-age, had caught a pair of large Bass in a small rivulet close to the house. We went to investigate and stood watching the others fishing for small fish in the clear water passing by the road just after a “Lemonangee” or sweet and salt Lemon soda drink. While we had a hearty lunch, my host’s better half made air-breathing holes on the green plastic lids of the buckets with a hot iron rod. With a full stomach and two buckets of fish, my uneventful and boring return journey to Bangalore began. While I returned to Bangalore, I remembered having seen “Photostat” shops instead of “Xerox” shops. Chuckling to myself about the possible anticonsumeristic (Read “Anticapitalist” or “Communist”) affiliations of the general Kerali public, I thought of Che’s motorcycle diaries while looking at a woman working in the field adjacent to the train track.

Having spent to less than 4 hours at the green (and RED) country of the Gods, I yearn to go back. I missed the final snake boat race on the Pampa, but I loved this travel! While I type this large rambling article or travelogue, my mind goes back to the scene where Thalaivar gets branded as a “Praandhan” in the film “Muththu” while asking “Irikki alaichchu oru umma tharoo

Image Courtesy: http://www.nasrani.net/2007/06/12/st-george-geevarghese-sahada-traditions-and-rituals-among-nasranis/

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