This is the land of a million palm trees. Of crashing waves and white sand and coconuts fresh from the tree. This is a land of fishing nets cast from the shore and fresh fish sold on the beach.
This is a place where people are friendly and hospitality is over the top. Where an extra helping (or three) of spicy curries and perfectly cooked fish find their way onto your plate at every meal. And service with a smile is as much a part of the meal as the naan and rice.
This a land of honking horns and passing cars on two-laned roads shared with cows and goats. Of tea plantations on rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Where one meter tea is made on the roadside, perfectly foamy and sweet, enjoyed as tuk tuks whizz by.
This is a land of education. Of literacy. Where creativity is valued and tradition is respected. Where boys and girls in uniforms walk to school together, laughing and smiling and holding hands.
This is a land of leadership in technology. It’s a place where the world’s first solar-powered airport welcomes passengers from around the world every day. And a place that has been named the first digital state in India.
This is the land of green-faced Kathakali dancers and Kolkali performers whose dizzying routines are a series of near-misses. Of drummers and dots of sandalwood. Of “namaste” and “you are welcome here.” Where the jasmine is fragrant and woven into beautiful welcome necklaces and the juice is freshly squeezed and perfectly sweet.
This is a place of peaceful backwaters and gorgeous sunsets. Where lotus flowers blossom in the midst of flooded rice paddys. Where residents know the true meaning of slowing down and enjoying life, and entire lives are conducted on the banks of the rivers, lakes and canals. In this place, floating markets row door to door to provide supplies and the school boat picks children up in the morning and drops them off in the afternoon.
This is a land of temple festivals that last for days. Where elephants are decorated and revered. Where the drums are loud and the fireworks are louder and bare feet walk into the temple to pray.
This is a wild land. Where families of tigers roam through villages and elephants bathe in the rivers. This is a place where the Kingfisher is both a beer and a bird, and the giant Malabar squirrel makes its home. This is a place where monkeys roam free, a native land where they’re likely to claim any outsider’s food, drink or wallet as their own.
This is a land that is small on a map but whose impact reverberates worldwide. It’s a place that’s easy to travel, but difficult to leave. This is the place where I fell in love with India.
This is Kerala.
What is Kerala to you? Let me know in the comments.