The high point of my travels has always been about people. People are the defining factor of any place which makes it worth visiting again. Alluring landscapes, enchanting scenic views and mouth-watering food become secondary. Being a people’s person and lover of enriching cultures, what makes any destination on top of my list is the varied experiences I gather and the meaningful conversation that I indulge in with the people. Nothing can be more fulfilling than sharing a smile with a stranger, meeting people who are “Human by Nature”, laughing with the locals and communicating with them even though we fail to understand each other’s language.
I have bags full of human stories from different parts of the world. Whether it was living with the semi nomadic community named Changpas in Ladakh, spending enough time to understand the culture of the indigenous people of Finland named Sami or interacting with the Rabai Tribe to know more about them, my travel always revolves around the people and culture.
“Human by Nature”, the Kerala Tourism’s campaign resonates with me deeply. Kerala as a state is not only known for its famous backwaters, romantic houseboats, traditional Kathakali dance or the picture perfect Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, but the state is celebrated for its people. The warmth in the behavior and welcoming nature of the people makes Kerala as God’s Own Country.
Check Out this fantastic Video by the Kerala Tourism that portrays the real, yet fascinating interplay of humans and nature in a land known for its open, inclusive way of life.
My very first impression about the state had created a profound impact on my mind. It was so heart-touching that I will never ever forget it in my lifetime. It is about a young cab driver and his sense of hospitality, which just blew my mind. I had never encountered someone with such high sense of responsibility, dedication, sincerity and warmth anywhere else, but in Kerala.
Human By Nature: Meet Jofy John Joseph, the humble and hospitable young man
In the year 2016, I was scheduled to travel to Kerala. As per the plan, I reached the airport early in the morning on a winter month to take my flight to Kochi. Due to heavy fog and air congestion, our flight got delayed by two hours. As luck would have it, the flight got further delayed due to missing the runway slot. With continuous delays, I got worried about our cab driver who was at the Kochi airport to pick us up. I decided to call and inform him about the situation. Little did I know that I would land in Kochi 6 hours later than my scheduled time of arrival.
To my utter surprise, I found a most humble young man waiting patiently since morning at the airport, holding a placard with my name written on it. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe that a person can go the extra mile to practice “Atithi Devo Bhava”. My eyes became moist hearing that he had chosen to skip lunch in order to receive me. From 8 am in the morning to 3 pm in the afternoon, Mr. Jofy had not left the airport, only because he was given the responsibility to pick me up from the airport. It was my first visit to Kerala and the very first impression about the people of Kerala just won my heart instantly.
In the busy and routine life, where people don’t have enough time to greet you properly, I met this young energetic man who had defined “Human by Nature” in true sense. His infectious smile, caring nature, warm hospitality and charismatic personality simply floored me. I was delighted when I got to know that Mr. Jofy would be driving me around in Kerala for the next 7 days.
Human By Nature: Meet The Farmer Couple
The winding roads, the unending stretch of tea gardens, rolling hills and picturesque tiny villages; Munnar paints the most beautiful scenery amongst all the captivating hill stations in South India. It reminds me of my homeland Assam where I grew up in a similar colonial tea environment. As far as your eyes travel, the refreshing green colored tea bushes take your attention away. The aromatic spices, earthy smell of the soil and delicious local traditional snacks dominate your senses as you walk around the town.
I remember travelling to Top Station from Munnar on the next day. While driving up in the hills, our car was stopped by a farmer couple who were selling fresh vegetables by the roadside. With a smiling face, the lady tried communicating with me in Malayalam language but I failed to understand even a single word. My driver came to my rescue and translated to me what she had said. I was super thrilled to get the vegetables right from the organic farm, located just down the road.
As I was negotiating the price with the couple, the lady said, “You can do that later. I want you to come and have a cup of tea with us”. I was surprised to see the gesture.
The sense of hospitality and the kindness shown by the couple were beyond my expectation. Though I failed to communicate with her in Malayalam language, it did not affect the warmth in her behavior towards me, even though I was a total stranger to her. Who needs languages when you can communicate without it? Aren’t they more Human by Nature than others?
Human By Nature: The Boatman
“I want to capture that big houseboat. But, it is far off.’’ I was having a casual conversation with my travel partner. It was lunch time for the boatman. He overheard the conversation. The next thing I saw was that he came running to start our boat and said, “Madam, abhi aap houseboat ki photo le sakte hain” (Now you can take the photo of the houseboat). I was amazed by his gesture. It made me realize how the people of Kerala go extra miles to make their guests feel at home and how they showcase the most human side of their nature through their acts.
This was followed by a heart-felt conversation with the boatman. He showed me the serenity of the backwaters, life along the river, and served me the most delectable spread of local delicacies on the boat.
Sitting in my houseboat, I felt as if the world was passing by in slow motion. The rhythmic sound of water created the most soothing music to my ears. The floating houseboats, people fishing, children running on the bank of the river and locals waving at you; it truly transported me to a new world. Watching the setting sun, I saw a local rowing his small boat as he returned to his home.
A reflection of the sun in the water slowly fading away, inviting the darkness, was simply magical. As our boatman docked the boat for the night, I stood still to witness the unfolding drama of nature. Those fleeting moments in the backwaters of Kerala were precious.
Human By Nature: The Kathakali Dancers
I reached the cultural center of Munnar an hour earlier. I was very keen to see the Kathakali dancers transform into their characters. As I stepped inside the make-up room, I realized quickly that I was the only woman in the room. I felt a bit conscious thinking whether I was disturbing their make-up session. Seeing me in that discomfited situation, one of the Kathakali dancers quickly offered me a chair and a glass of water. Later he said, “You can take as many pictures as you want. We don’t mind.” The comforting gesture and welcoming nature of the Kathakali dancer made a huge difference. It made me comfortable by providing a space that allowed me to capture those fascinating faces into my frame without any hesitance.
Otherwise shy and reserved personalities, they become the great performers of the finest classical dance form which portrays a unique way of storytelling through the excellent footwork and impressive gestures of face and hands, complimented with music and vocal performances. I was completely smitten by the powerhouse performance. Later, I requested them to get framed with me and they happily agreed.
I was lured by everything I had experienced in Kerala. Whether it is the enriching history, my introduction to the classical dance form, Kathakali, visiting those rolling tea-gardens in Munnar, getting familiar fragrance of the tea leaves like my homeland in Assam, the sound of water in the backwaters of Kumarakom, the fishing nets and the swaying coconut trees. More than anything, I was enamored by the people of Kerala.
They have a high standard of hospitality, uplifting spirits, proud faces of carrying their cultural heritage and most importantly they are “Human by Nature”. No wonder why Kerala is called God’s own country.
Disclaimer: This post is written in collaboration with the Kerala Tourism. The varied experiences, conversations and candid moments stated in the post are mine
The reproduction of any of the content, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.
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