One day, my mom’s youngest brother, Babu Uncle, took us on a walk through Kozhencherry, past all the houses and pathways he used as a kid. We started outside St. Thomas College and walked way up a hill. Up past their childhood home. It was interesting to see all the power lines and modern things that were not there way before.
We walked past a Che Guevara spray painting, a common sight.
It was sundown, so we couldn’t capture the surreal beauty of everything we walked by. We even went through a wild, grassy, rocky path where there was no path, up a big hill. We shined our flashlights to not trip on the rocks and hoped there were no snakes around. And they used to walk these trails barefoot. The site below is supposed to be korangan mala (monkey forest), where maybe a few hundred years ago there were monkeys.
We walked by a candle-lit Hindu temple.
We walked and walked. It was great to see the calm, residential part of Kozhencherry.
Many of my cousins who I don’t normally get to see often all happened to be in Kerala for the housewarming of my cousins Sajanchan and Ligychechi. They built a grand beautiful house for their visits back home from the Middle East. Above is the house at night with a tent in front for the party to come. It started with a prayer meeting.
Then the pala kacha where you turn on the stove for the first time and heat up some milk for some chaya. In this case, a little fire was lit. The house has an old-school chimney like this, and a real-deal stove in a separate kitchen.
The family took nice group photos before the festivities began.
This is a few of the ladies hanging out in the master bedroom, including my mom’s two older sisters and my cousins.
Here’s some family fun happening in the sit-out.
Did you notice the basket-weave well? It’s the latest style and pretty eye-catching. Apparently, cup and saucer style wells are all the rage, too. There’s plenty of gravelly space to hang out and chat even beyond the sit-out.
One day in Kerala, we all left the house ready for an adventure. Somewhere near Ernakalum, after a few hours of driving, we stopped for breakfast. Sajan ordered masala dosa, which Layla thought was pizza.
I had idli appam. Thank God, this place had a playground for kids! Layla had a good ole time after eating two bites of food.
Next, we arrived at our first destination, Hill Palace in Tripunithura. There was an interminable set of stairs, which reminded me of the Scala Sancta in Rome, a holy set of stairs where you’re supposed walk up on your knees the whole way. Thankfully, this was not a holy set of stairs. We walked on our feet. We noticed lots of barefoot school kids and wondered where their shoes were.
Then we got to the top and realized everyone must take their shoes off before going into the palace. The interior was beautiful, with artifacts and paintings from old Kerala kings and kingdoms. It was a place of luxury from the past. I enjoyed learning some history. There was even a set of old Hebrew scripture scrolls. Too bad they don’t let you take any pictures.
There were deer and other animals in a little animal sanctuary.
Then we wandered through an old temple area, with a beautiful bathing spot the royal women used to frequent.
After exploring the Hill Palace grounds, we knew the sun was about to set. We drove an hour and a half to a beach, got our feet wet, and watched the sun descend. Then with sandy toes, we drank some chaya and headed home.
One afternoon, a man came over with a strange contraption on a wheel. It reminded me of an old weaving loom. He stepped on a pedal, which turned the wheel, which turned a frighteningly sharp metal disc, perfect for sharpening knives. Sparks flew as each knife sharpened. Pretty fascinating to watch!
At the same time, another man came and shimmied up a coconut tree. This tree was incredibly high. He took very few tools. A knife, a rope and small wooden board. I think he was trimming up the tree. Whatever he was doing, it sure looked dangerous to be up that high. He was clearly a pro.
On the way to Eraviperoor one day, we stopped to get gas. My mom walked across the road to show Layla the buffaloes in the rice paddies.
The local fishmongers saw me taking pictures and posed for their own shot.
Everywhere you look, in Kerala, there’s water. And water means fish. One of our home-cooked meals there had rice, vegetables and three kinds of fish at once.
On this last trip, I ordered karimeen at a few restaurants. It has a very unglamorous name in English, green chromide. Almost everyone else would order some good old tried and true oon on a silver platter.
Here’s some fish our aunt in Nilambur cooked for us on her fiery chimney.
I didn’t get any pictures this time around, but every trip, we look forward to the mathi man, who rides his bicycle past the house every morning with baskets full of freshly caught mathi. He rings a bell or makes a distinct vocal sound. Then he weighs out and distributes his goods and rides on to the next customer.
One of my favorite things about Kerala is that inside=outside. You can always see and hear what’s going on outside and who’s walking along the road.
The sit-out is where the social magic happens.
You get a cool breeze without the sun burning down on you. You can talk to anyone who saunters in by the front gate. You can sit with friends and family and chat over chaya. You’re connected to the world and not trapped inside an insulated living room.