My first visit to Kerala
By Aishwariya Laxmi
It was my first visit to Kerala. Of course I have met many Keralites and heard a lot about God’s own country, but a visit to a small village called Pazhayannur made me realise just how peaceful and close to nature the place really was. My mom’s chithapa has a huge rambling house there, which has been handed down to him from the previous generation. A small pond faces it and a beautiful temple stands in front of the edifice.
I had been persuaded by my mom’s cousin who is actually only a couple of years older than I, to join the extended family for a devasam at Pazhayannur. I had agreed since I wanted to mingle with my family, many of whose members I had not met previously. At the time I was a lot thinner, and had short hair with tints of brown in it. With my jeans and colourful Tee shirts I presented an interesting contrast to the rural landscape.
I had a great time walking down causeways in the fields to the well and drawing water from it for drinking. Visits to a nearby dam made me wonder if water was as scarce as we imagine it to be. I picked four leafed clovers from near the waterfront and peeled jackfruit, washed my own clothes, and slept on a mat on the floor.
The sudden appearance of an arachnid one night caused a bit of a hullabaloo since my grandmother who shared the room with me was every bit as scared as I am of the creepy eight legged creatures. Then of course the whole household was up…. My mother’s 6 chithapas, their wives and children! Many theories started floating about as to why the spider could not have been seen, while my mom’s cousin slyly suggested that there were more snakes there than spiders anyway.
A few loose floorboards were pried open and we all checked to see if there were any other creepy crawlies underneath. Thankfully there were none that we could see. So we all went to our respective places and tried to sleep. I say tried, because each time we closed our eyes we could see a few multi-legged creatures walking on us.
And of course my grandmother started on the stories of all the times in the past that she had encountered spiders, huge hairy ones, which if picturised would have put a tarantula to shame!So much for spiders and snakes!
One night, we all went to the temple facing the house and lit lamps there. The next night, there was a vellichappad. A priest came to the temple and after chanting a lot of mantras he started hopping around the temple screaming loudly and generally attracting all our attention. I do not mean to sound irreverent here, but my belief in God does not extend to idol worship. I believe in a super power but I more or less conform to the opinion that it is within each one of us. So that does not make me an agnostic, but just a believer, I guess. My mom’s cousin informed me that the priest was possessed by God, or rather God had entered his physical body and if anybody wanted to consult the priest on any matter, he would speak like an oracle. Well- One look at the situation and I stayed away!
I really wanted to take photographs of the ongoing hungama but was informed by my family that it would be against the rules. Suddenly I felt like Pooja Batra in Virasat who kept clicking snaps of each new thing she encountered in the village. If only I looked as good as she did as well!
On another day we went to the nearby temple and fed the fish. We also went to Guruvayur and saw the huge elephant there. We had our Darshan and I prayed for so long that everybody started complaining. Despite what I say about not believing in idol worship, I can pray long and hard if taken to a temple.
I love the peaceful atmosphere that prevails in temples, except that in places like Guruvayur, there are so many devotees queuing up to have a darshan, and the distribution of prasadam is so organised that one feels it is a commercial activity like any other.
Anyway, I came back from Kerala a more relaxed and refreshed being, the only downside being that I had a battery of examinations to clear, as these had been my study holidays!