The last Resort

In a landscape being overtaken by steel and concrete, Roopinder Singh escapes to a stretch of earth, trees and the sea

Kerala. The tourism industry and the hype that it has created through its advertising campaigns, travel brochures and websites, has desensitised us to the beauty of "God’s Own Country," which has now been reduced to a cliché. However, the memory of Kovalam visited 25 years ago was still fresh and beautiful. It is rare that the memories and reality are in consonance, but in this case, they were, and revisiting Kovalam was a treat.

Sunset for these fishermen marks the end of a working day but for the visitors, it is an unforgettable sight

A beautiful water lily
Clockwise from top: Sunset for these fishermen marks the end of a working day but for the visitors, it is an unforgettable sight; a beautiful water lily; the placid waters; sun vanishing over the horizon. — Photos by the writer

Sun vanishing over the horizon The placid waters

The rich vegetation was overpowering for one deprived of it in an urban sprawl. The fields are green in the North, but this was a different, richer green altogether. This was simply too lush, and the vegetation was everywhere, even creeping into the interiors.

It is magical. Towering coconut, toddy and arccanut trees, blue sea, warm hospitality, all made the journey unforgettable. The sand on the beaches of Kovalam was soft and the sunsets spectacular. People who live there find them commonplace, for them it is the end of just another day. For us tourists it is a memory to be cherished, an image to be retained in the mind and on film.

Coconut palms provide the inhabitants of the most literate state in India with a cooking medium in which, it seems, all Kerala food is cooked; a refreshing drink; bathing oil; a scoop to dig out the pulp from the nut; and material for weaving into beautiful objects.

The sea and the backwaters are a part of daily life, for the common people who live on the banks of the many streams and lagoons. For the tourist, the backwaters are exotic, the ride a revitalising exposure to beauty and escape from the humdrum of city life. The tourist ignores the high humidity, the heat, and other non-weather related irritants. They are transient.

The food is a delight. My earlier exploration had revealed that the ‘Spice Route’ had a rich non-vegetarian tradition. Now it was time to try out seafood, especially the various versions of meen (fish). And what a wide variety of cuisines, the regions and communities present.

If only Kerala was nearer, one would not be such an infrequent tourist. But then, if that were to happen, the experience would not quite be the same.