Our First Encounter with Kerala
It takes twenty-four hours by train to reach Thrissur from Hyderabad, perhaps just sixteen if it had not been for the dozen or so stations in between, where the train takes brief stopovers. The air-conditioned cabin makes the journey comfortable: clean sheets, blankets, and pillows; towels that look and smell fresh; electric sockets to charge batteries; electric fans; toilets with running water, hand wash liquid, and toilet paper; and crew that takes your meal orders. And most important of all, in my case anyway, is privacy.
We get the side bunk; we spend the day in the lower part, drawing the curtains to give us privacy while we eat or pray (the curtains are a convenience for Muslim women, like myself, who cover their head). Masood climbs up the upper berth to sleep at night.
Almost all the passengers around us speak Malayalam, so Masood and I only had each other to talk to. We spend the long journey looking out the glass window, competing who could first pronounce the names of the stations we encounter along the way, taking photographs, writing a journal (that’s me), reading a computer-related boring magazine (that’s him), talking, and arguing. With so much time on our hands, the arguments over silly matters is mandatory.
The view outside the window for the first several hours is dull and brown: crops have been harvested, bridges over highways filled with cars and smoke, old buildings, cows grazing absentmindedly, dried-up streams.
After a light dinner consisting of vegetable curry and lentil soup, I draw the curtains; the rhythmic chugging of the train lulls me to sleep.
Silver-blue mountain that’s kissing the clouds, tall and strong palm and coconut trees, lush green vegetation, and rain – these are the elements of nature that we wake up to. I look out the window for the longest time to preserve the memory, then take a photograph.
The train arrives at Thrissur (formerly known as Thrichur) station at noon. It’s quite a small place as compared to Hyderabad’s busy station. The air feels fresh, cool and soothing. Within minutes, it begins to pour heavily.
A gentleman greets us at the station’s entrance and leads us towards a car. He wears a white short-sleeved shirt with a long lungi of the same color. We drive through narrow roads and a few roundabouts.
Thrissur, the 4th most populous city in Kerala, is also the cultural capital of the state. We notice several churches, temples and mosques—both old and new. I feel a harmony between the people of different faiths.
The hour-long drive towards our destination reminds me of the Philippines; there has been a moment or two where I’d thought I am really there. However, I’m immediately reminded of my current location by the sight of men in lungis and women wearing colorful saris.
There are several impressive-looking houses along the way…
There are houses that have just the basics…
And houses that look like the ones we read about in fairy tales…
This is our first encounter with Kerala, India’s state that is famous for its backwaters, Ayurvedic treatments and tropical greenery.
I’ll be writing more on the exotic locations that we’re going to visit next, the food we’re eating here, and the resort that we’re staying at. So please stay tuned!