Recently, I embarked on a journey to Kerala for an internship, a state often referred to as "God's Own Country." Indeed, this title is justified by its incredible beauty and lush greenery. It feels like you are in the most refreshing surroundings on Earth, especially when you've been living in Delhi for some time. This was my very first solo journey and I was definitely nervous. However, I had to act professionally, so I took up the challenge with the belief that if I started my journey, I would definitely end up somewhere.
With the help of my friends and mentors, I reached Kottayam, one of the 14 districts in Kerala, this is where my internship awaited. While traveling on the metro, all I could see outside the windows were towering coconut trees, banana plants, water bodies, and the spaciousness of it all. Far away from the crowds and suffocating buildings, it had its own elegance. One notable feature that caught my eye was the vernacular architecture prevalent throughout Kerala. People have houses with pointed roofs to prevent water accumulation during the rainy season, which makes them look quite different from what we see in North India. Interestingly, I didn't spot a single hand pump during my stay, as much of southern Kerala is hilly terrain, making groundwater access a challenge.
Water, in the form of rivers and waterbodies, plays a pivotal role in the lives of the people in Kerala. It serves as a source of irrigation and transportation. Similar to North India, where bicycles are common, residents living near these waterways own personal wooden motorboats, a fascinating sight to behold. The government has also introduced public motorboats, making water transport more affordable and efficient. Most houses in Kerala have wells to store rainwater, which is used during dry seasons. During my month-long stay, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and traditions of Kerala. One thing that stood out was the pro-social behaviour of the people. They are always willing to go the extra mile to help others, fostering a sense of community and togetherness.
As I only knew two languages, Hindi and English, and very rarely people in Kerala understand Hindi, English became my primary means of communication. Fortunately, many educated people in Kerala are fluent in English, though at times I faced it challenging to express myself to the locals who just knows Malayalam. Keralites are deeply traditional and cultural. Unlike most Indian cities, cities in Kerala are not as crowded. Interestingly, after my observations, a Kerala peer informed me that there is not much difference between a Kerala city and a village. Villages are often more developed than one might typically expect, with almost everything you find in a city but significantly more greenery.
In Kerala, education is highly valued, and nearly everyone attends school. Kerala boasts a literacy rate of 96.2%, the highest in the country. Most women are employed and financially independent. This awareness and education also contribute to a higher rate of divorces in Kerala, as the population is educated and aware of their rights, leading them to fight for their rights, raise their voice against injustice and unafraid to standup for them.
For vegetarians, it can be challenging to manage in Kerala, as fish, chicken, and rice are the staple diet of Keralites. People in Kerala traditionally eat with their hands, which might be a challenge for those accustomed to using spoons. However, the cuisine is one of the healthiest, with a wide variety of snacks, and banana chips are a famous local favourite. During my stay, I had the opportunity to celebrate my first Onam festival. This cultural celebration fosters a sense of community, cultural preservation, and reverence for nature. It highlights values of inclusivity and gratitude, providing a deeper understanding of the rich traditions that define life in "God's Own Country."
In conclusion, my journey through Kerala was an eye-opening adventure that exposed me to a land where natural beauty, culture, education, and gender empowerment harmoniously coexist. Kerala truly lives up to its title as "God's Own Country," and I will forever cherish the memories and lessons I gained from this incredible place. If you ever have the chance to explore Kerala, seize it, you'll be captivated by its beauty and culture.