Driving through Kerala is an experience. For starters, whats called the highway has just about as wide as for two regular trucks to go past barely scrapping each others paint on the bumper. That may not be completely accurate all points of the highway. Someplaces, its actually worse.
Yet, it is an absolute pleasure. For several reasons. For it is in such a drive that the contradictions clean out any preconceived idea that you came laden with.
One, the perpetual sea of green that adorn the sides of the road is such a soothing alternative to Mumbai. Where the roads are so seamlessly and almost by way birthright encroached upon by a builder, a hawker or a gawker. The road side in Kerala is a green.
Two, is the colourful array construction that surprised me no end. Truth be told, some choice of colour left me open mouthed debilitation of the eye. Churches , temples, mosques, toddy shops all hold your attention. Amidst them the churches predominately hold attention. Atleast they did so to mine.
Just as you are taking a turn at the road, if you need to be keeping yourself mentally alive and occupied its easy to do here. You could play simple game like betting with yourself (or with the people in the car that you are traveling with ) that the visual element that would next meet your eye, upon taking the turn, would be a ‘purple coloured spire with some connection to Jesus’.
You could be right. In most cases, I was. Or wrong. Like I was. In yet other cases I was yet to recover from the intensity of the previous sighting or the point of interest it generated.
For instance, you couldn’t think of a South Indian temple without thinking of the golden staff that adorns them. The permeability of culture to enable people to settle into a new idea or religion and help them feel at home was evident in some churches sporting the same golden staff.
At other times, distant cousins of Schumacher and Hamilton will shake you up as they rev the cracker of an engine in what would seem like a bus that would barely survive the corner swerve. The only warning signs are written on the sides : ‘Super Fast’ . In a rather quiet and demure way.
But try wrapping your arms around the state with a singular idea or a definition, and realization quickly dawns that its tough to do that.
Somewhere between all these churches and temples, communist party supporter still thrive.
Amidst all the relaxed ambiance of nature that thrives by the side of the road, the super fast buses rule the roost in the middle of the road
Wonderful stately artistic houses nestle in the midst of purple spires, yellow domes and toddy shops painted in green.
The simple pristine dhoti is the regular wear while big billboards advertise for jewelry, seemingly by the kilo, that could well have the potential of making the Reserve Bank of India feeling downright jealous.
The artistic quotient in the real movies of Kerala is perhaps the best in the country. Of the other kind of movies, that get made have an equal if not exceedingly alluring claim to fame too.
It is these contradictions that seem to have made peace with each other and thrive in a seamless ease, that make the place rich for me.
Much like a husband and wife who have a productive and harmonious marital life. Yet, he annoyed at the way she squeezes the toothpaste out, even as he gives the same toothpaste case the treatment she would give to a jewellery box.
And she perennially cheesed off by his insistent perpetual oddity of chewing dosa with loud chomps that would fit a primate even as she would insist on using a knife and fork to prise open and transport the the masala dosa from the plate to the tongue with elegance that can reach a hall of excellence in that category.
The red flag waving communist complemented by the purple church spire and yellow temple dome. The clean roads matched only by elements of nature and insistent ‘towers’ that are coming up now. The oodles of history besotted by the imminence of the present day. All of these, and much more, make what perhaps is an idea that is Kerala.
An idea that is not defined by singularly by geography or history or Economics or by this all encompassing word of ‘culture’ ! For the state comes alive in its boundless contradictions and uncanny beneficence of nature and hospitable people.
Who make some awesome boiled rice and fish curry. On that invigorating thought, I rest this post.
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