Sunday, 2 September 2012

Holiday in India 2012

We had an enjoyable short holiday in India from the end of July to the middle of August. Most of the time was spent visiting relatives in Kerala. It was good to meet them after so long.

There was little sightseeing this time but we did make a short pilgrimage to the famous shrine of Vailankanni in Tamil Nadu (see my write-up about it here). The main places we visited in Kerala included Thrissur, Kozhikode, Pudukkad and Pavarratty. We travelled by car, train and bus. Unfortunately the transport infrastructure showed no sign of improvement. On the roads there was no semblance of discipline or order; here the law of the jungle, in which one man looks out only for himself, prevails. Hasn’t it dawned on Indian politicians that if the country really wants to progress, it needs to improve its internal infrastructure?

Traffic in Thrissur
Without knowing Malayalam, communication can be problem. Educated professionals do know English, but the common folk do not. I got by speaking pidgin Malayalam mixed with English. We found people generally friendly, but also nosey. This is an interesting contrast to England where people who are more reserved and non-interfering. Everywhere we went we were served with a platter of food, most of which was quite sumptuous and filling. Exercising doesn’t seem to be a priority for most people.
Elephant sanctuary in Guruvayur

One excursion took us to an elephant sanctuary in Guruvayur. I have never seen so many elephants in one place at such close range as I did in Guruvayur. These elephants are used in the famous Thrissur Pooram every year.

I think I saw more churches in Kerala than temples even though Hindus are the majority. The Church is still quite powerful there, and it can count on generous donations from its numerically significant members. Coming from secular Europe, where religion is increasingly shunned, it was nice to see a vibrancy of religious life in Kerala. This is despite the fact that Communism still holds sway in certain sections of society. When one visits a church, for instance, he is not confronted by a crowd of silver haired pensioners but people of all ages, from the very young to the very old.

Palayur Church
Although the middle classes do seem to have more money nowadays, I did not see much progress in the state per se. The increasing number of shopping malls can’t disguise the fact that the infrastructure is creaking badly. With few industries and fierce competition for the best jobs, people continue to migrate elsewhere in search of better employment prospects. Dubai is any day preferable for most people than their own state. At the same time, low caste people from other states like Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Orissa flock to Kerala to enjoy better wages. Here human development indices are all high, but the economy still lags behind and is to a large extent still dependent on weather. If the rains don’t come, the crops fail and there are power cuts. The monsoon was weak when we arrived but it gained in strength as time progressed.

Backwater it is, but Kerala is still home in our hearts. Standing in my father’s house in Chevayur, a welter of memories came flooding back to me. I had enjoyed a happy early childhood there before my family moved to England. Maybe one day I might return, but not in the near future. For now I am happy to keep coming to Kerala every few years.

For Nithya and Anya, it was particularly heart breaking to say goodbye to loved ones. Anya, who is eight, had grown more attached to her cousins, aunties and grandparents this time. There were tears at the airport, but back to England we came with happy memories.


Ellen said...

It's interesting how well you write about your vacation. You should be writing on travel for a magazine or in a travel blog.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful Indian vacation. Maybe if I come to India I would remember to visit Kerala.

Blessings to you and your family.

JI said...

Thank you for your visit and your comments Ellen.

Best wishes,