I’m in London at my Grandma’s flat, preparing for an early flight to India tomorrow. By preparation I mean staring passively at a bag I need to pack again, clearing off memory cards for all visual and written riches I will collect over the next few weeks, and reading whatever I can cram about the region I’m about to experience.
To Kerala I go! But first, a few fun facts about the southern Indian state.
* Malayalam is the official state language of Kerala.
* In 2001, Kerala had a population of 31 million–56% Hindu, 25% Muslim, 19% Christian. (So, that’s O% unaffiliated?…)
* State policies have long supported universal education. Kerala boasts the highest literacy rates (91%) of any Indian region and leads the country in family and gender equality planning.
* Since an economic recession in the 1970s pushed many to immigrate, 20% of the GDP comes from remittances sent from the Persian Gulf.
* Ayurvedic medicine has been alive for thousands of years
* The traditional arts scene of Malayali music, dance, and ritual drama are widely performed and enjoyed.
* Described as a “go-ahead tourism” State, the natural and cultural phenomena of this region seem within arms reach of the tourist, as well as many eco-tourism iniatives.
As I read on, I’m curious to experience Kerala’s apparent combination of paradoxical values and traditions to many policies. Kerala is described as open to the outside world and innovation has been the backbone of the State’s economic prosperity. Still dominant, however, is the old hierarchy of the caste, very traditional dress, and off-limit Hindu temples to outsiders. With this in mind, will Kerala seem like an odd, irreconcilable place to me? Will I enjoy the benefits of a preserved tradition as I watch Kalirippayattu, a Kerala martial art, in action and forget my desire to reconcile differences. Or will I struggle against India as I try to reduce it’s history and people into a single narrative. How do Malayalis reconcile their country’s seeming contradictions? Are they at peace with the complex narrative?
Main Source: The Rough Guide to Kerala by David Abram;