Over thirty years ago, my family and I took a trip to Thekkady, a mountain town that borders Kerala and Tamil Nadu. I was but a boy, but I remembered how wonderful the trip was and how beautiful the town was. And so we decided to visit the place again, this time with my mom, my uncle and my friend.
Kerala – the state that I am from – is often referred to as “God’s Own Country”. It’s quite beautiful, so very green. The drive up to Thekkady boasted all the beauty Kerala had to offer – tea leaf estates, cardamom estates, black pepper estates, and more. The roads were windy and hilly. We stopped in the side of the road many times for pictures. We stopped for a waterfall. The tea leaf estates were the most beautiful.
As our elevation increased, we said goodbye to India’s sweltering heat and humidity. Our constant companion since arriving, it was almost strange when it was not present. The coolness of the mountain air was a pleasant welcome, giving me an energy the heat had been consistently taking from me.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we went to the game preserve, where we rode elephants and then caught a show highlighting traditional Kerala dance the “Kathakali”.
Elephants are beautiful creatures. Massive and these two we rode, gentle. Its skin tough grey and rubbery, its hair strong and wiry. Patient and methodical, they guided us thru a small plantation. My mother and I on one; my friend and my uncle on the other. Theirs lagged behind as it stopped to make a deposit along the way. After the ride, we were let off onto the same platform from where we got on. The fear my mother initially felt had subsided and replaced by confidence, as we rounded the platform down to the dirt space where the elephants stood and took pictures. As have all the Indian people that have seen him, the elephant took a liking to my friend, resting his trunk on my friend’s head for a photo op.
The dance was interesting and, though not something I would typically spend my time with, glad that I attended. Two actors played out a scene from The Mahabharata (an epic tale of good vs evil longer than the Illiad and the Odyssey combined). The two male actors – caked in colourful makeup and colourfully ornate costume – were joined by two drummers and a vocalist. The specialty of the dance centered around the minimalism of the actual steps & moves, relying a lot on eye movement to accompany the music. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the actors somehow someday enter my nightmares.
That night, I had an Ayurvedic massage for the first time in my life. The first few minutes of the 100 min session felt like they were using my head as a punching bag. By the end of it, I’d never felt so limber in my life (except for a Thai massage from a small, sixty-year-old woman named Jit, but that’s another story). It was almost as if my accident had never happened. If only this could last forever. My body would be forever thankful.
The next morning we awoke at the crack of dawn, to get on the boat for the safari. Though we saw some elephants, buffalo, and antelopes, the safari itself was somewhat of a disappointment. I was hoping to see a tiger, which was a big ask considering the hotel representative had only seen one 17 times the last 39 years. That being said, it was still a wonderful time. Thekkady is a stunningly beautiful place; and the animals a bonus.
After breakfast, we bought souvenirs, as I witnessed my mother haggling from the moment we stepped into the store, throwing every bit of her charm into the transactions. I realized at that moment where I get it from.
Soon after, we made our drive down the mountain back home to Mallapally this time to stay with another uncle and auntie.
I was happy to enrich the memories I had of Thekkady as a kid with ones as an adult. And that night when my brother called, we talked about it.
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