The southern state of Kerala is home as I mentioned in my blog posting “An evening in the backwaters of kerala”. As I mentioned in the blog posting, we began our Kerala adventure in Cochin and the backwaters of Alleppey. After rejuvenating evening in the backwaters, it was time to visit family I had not seen in eight years. It was even more exciting and nerve racking as my African American husband was meeting my grandparents and family for the first time. I did not know what to expect, but was ready.
We began our journey to Thalassery, Kannur from Cochin. Thalassery is a city on the Malabar coast in Kannur state. If you live in the USA, the Malabar black pepper powder comes from my part of the world. While researching on Kerala for school, I stumbled upon wikipedia’s definition of Thalassery as the Paris of Malabar…that’s right people I am from Paris of India. After a long ride, we reached my ancestral house in Kerala. Most Keralites have an ancestral home that is passed on through generations. I had not been to Thalassery since third grade and I was excited to experience my heritage with my husband. My grandparents awaited us along with other family members. My African American husband got kisses from everyone and kindly obliged. He was used to the ladies kissing and I am sure was shocked by the kisses from the men in the family. He marveled at the old house with a million rooms as I felt a sense of belonging seep through me.
The next day we took a car ride to the Thalassery fort. The fort stands on a cliff on the banks of the Muzhappilangad Beach. The fort was built by the British to show their dominance over India. The view was spectacular. We soaked in the view, walked through the fort and made our way to the beach. We lazied around for a little bit and were on our way back. We were in Thalassery for a day after which we bid adieu to everyone and made our way to Calicut or Kozhikode.
Kozhikode is the third largest city in Kerala and like most big cities it is synonymous with the hustle and bustle of city life. History says Vasco da Gama the Portuguese explorer visited Kozhikode and started the trade route for spices. Kerala is known for its spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, etc. The British came to India through Kerala to begin trading for spices and ended up staying in India for years. While there are tons of places to see in Kozhikode, we decided to drive for few hours to go up the hill to Wayanad district. Wayanad forests in Wayanad is said to be inhabited for over 3000 years. While driving up the hills, we saw monkeys on the side of the road. My husband was excited to say the least and we made sure he fed the monkeys. We reached the top of the Wayanad hills where the view was almost haunting. The fog against the greenery was spectacular and serene. We hiked to Soojipara waterfalls which is 1.5-2km walk down paved stairs. It di get slippery at times but the falls at the end makes the pain worthwhile.
Our next stop was the beautiful Edakkal Caves. The literal translation of Edakkal means in between caves. The path to the caves includes rock climbing, jumping terrains and several stairs.It includes two natural rock cut caves formed by a large split in a big rock. While the caves in itself are spectacular, the insides of the caves hold ancient carvings of human and animal forms. These animal forms are supposedly the oldest proof that ancient human civilization existed dating back to the Stone Age. The view from the summit makes all the sweating worthwhile. We ended the day by visiting Kuruvadweep islands. It is an eco tourism spot where there are several small islands that can be reached using rafts or boats. There are trees on all sides making even the hottest day seem pleasant.
We were in Kerala for almost two weeks and visited Kochi, Kozhikode and Thalassery. My husband basked in all the attention. Everyone loved his curly African American hair and they made him traditional shrimp dishes with a twist- they americanized it with ketchup to reduce the effects of Indian spice. Inspite of screaming from roof tops that he can handle Indian spices, they added tomato ketchup to dishes. While he was basking in the attention, I was marveling at the beauty of Kerala. I grew up in metropolitan Bangalore, miles away from the scenic Kerala. Kerala and I had a strained relationship growing up. I had fond memories of spending my vacations there but it never felt like home. I was too city to feel like home in Kerala. I went back to India in 2009 to acquaint my husband with my family and in return I got acquainted to the state my parents have always flaunted proudly. Today I flaunt her proudly as I say I am from the land of the spices, the Edakkal caves, the Malabar pepper powder, coconut oil, but above all the land where girl children are celebrated and education is enforced.