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Romance in God’s Own Country

  • Submitted by: Sudeshna Kundoo, India
  • Submission Date: 02nd Apr 2008

I could feel a nip in the air when I woke up to a very beautiful day in my life. Long had I cherished for this day… it was February 1st 2006 and I was about to embark on a very beautiful journey with my husband… I am talking of my honeymoon. Just after six days of marriage I started for ‘God’s Own Country’ along with my husband.

I woke up with gladness in my heart and a song on my lips. The first half of the day went in all the last minute preparations; the schedule was tight but believe me I was enjoying every bit of it. While packing up my things something crawled back to my mind; memory flashed back to my schooldays and I was reminded of my English teacher. I was in the tenth standard and we were having a discussion about Kerala and its natural charm. Out of the context, my teacher happened to say – “Girls, for your honeymoon go to Kerala.”

At about 12 noon I and my hubby started for Howrah station. Within an hour we reached the station and boarded the Coromandel Express. My husband gave a pleasant surprise when he showed the train ticket to me. Nothing was unusual about it; the uniqueness was in the berths that he had reserved for the journey. He had booked side upper and lower berth in the compartment with the intention that the entire side would just be for the two of us. I felt joy and appreciated this sweet gesture with a smile. Fifteen more minutes were left; he got down and came back with chocolates, wafers and chips. Coromandel Express chugged off the platform at 2:50 pm and the sound of the station vendors, porters and men drifted away. With every tick in the clock I felt I am nearing my dream destination. Chocolates, chips and all ‘sweet nothing’ talks by him made my day. We went to sleep at 10:30 p.m.

The Thursday morning sun greeted me with smiles and I realized that my marriage is a week old now. I shared a cup of morning tea with my husband and took a quick bite at the morning breakfast served by the pantry. Hours passed by and Chennai welcomed a newly wed couple at 5:15 pm. For the night we lodged at Ashoke Residency. In our brief stopover at Chennai we visited the magnificent Mahabalipuram and marveled at its architectural splendor.

It was on the night of 3rd February that I boarded the Trivandrum Mail. Soon after boarding we enjoyed the dinner that was pre-packed from the hotel. Night passed away and broad daylight brought me to Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. It was a quick and leisurely drive in the resort car; within less than an hour we arrived at Beach and Lake Resort in Kovalam. Beach and Lake Resort is no less than heaven for the leisure seekers and the honeymooners. Little away from the vibrant crowd of Kovalam beach, Beach and Lake Resort is just on the shores of Pozhikkara beach in Pachalloor; undoubtedly a virgin beach in the Kerala. My joy knew no bounds when I stepped down from the car and got on to a boat which ferried us to the resort. The 2 minutes boat ride was so unique that it can hardly be expressed in words. Cozily nestled between the Arabian Sea and the Parvathi Puthanar and Karamana rivers, Beach and Lake Resort was dreamland for me. Our resort was enchanting and magical; lake and beach view from our cozy and luxurious nook mesmerized me. The local fishing men and the womenfolk added on to the ambiance. Nature at Beach and Lake Resort was at its very best with all its charm unveiled in the natural treasures.

I remember a sweet incident that happened to me that very night at the resort. There was a bamboo patio swing on which I was comfortably seated and enjoying a sip of Sprite. I was humming some popular movie songs and both of us were deeply engrossed in it. Suddenly I heard a man clapping and appreciating my song. He was an Italian who was out there for a vacation to South India. He sweetly wished us for a sweet and memorable honeymoon. After that we had our dinner on the sandy banks of the resort and I experienced the charm of candle-light dinner for the first time in my life.

On the fifth day of February my hubby planned for a day trip to Kanyakumari. Kanyakumari is not very far away from Kovalam; from Trivandrum it is at a comfortable distance of 86 kilometers. On our way to Vivekananda Rock at Kanyakumari we dropped in to visit the Padmanabhanpuram Palace. It is an ancient historical monument. This place is about 55 kilometers away from Thiruvananthapuram on the Nagercoil-Kanyakumari highway. Beautifully nestled by hills, dales and rivers it lies in the core of the Padmanabhapuram Fort. The fort originally built in mud was dismantled and reconstructed with granite by Maharaja Marthanda Varma; this palace is rich with exquisite wooden structures, carving and paintings based on Hindu epics.

We reached Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula at the meeting point of three spectacular water bodies. This place is flanked by Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. I could see the Vivekananda Rock from a distance. We got the tickets for the launch that would ferry us to the rock made famous by Swami Vivekananda, the legendary disciple of Ramkrishna Paramhansa. It gave a very nice feeling to step on to Vivekananda Mandapam and Sripada Mandapam; these two rocks are separated by distance of mere 70 meters. Holiness and sanctity were prevalent in every inch of the place. I had seen pictures of Vivekananda Rock in our family album; now it was in front of my eyes with all its beauty and splendor. The huge statue of Thriruvalluvar, the famous Tamil poet, is amazing. Next we visited the Kanyakumari Temple dedicated to Kanya Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. We munched on some snacks and got ourselves souvenirs from the local shops. We waved goodbye to a land of spectacular sunrise and sunset. It was almost 4 o’ clock when we came back to our Beach and Lake Resort. After quick refreshment we went to the Kovalam Beach for the first time. The scenic beach was amazing; the waves were being kissed by the colors of dusk. I was completely lost in the scenic splendor and so was my hubby. Quite a while we failed to realize that we had been sitting for long and marveling at the romance of sun and the sea.
The following day, which is on 6th February, we had a day of absolute relaxation. Confining ourselves to the cozy warmth of the resort we spend quality time with each other; eating, strolling along the Pozhikkara beach and watching DVD’s was our agenda from morn to night.

At dawn of 7th February we boarded Jan Shatabdi Express to Alleppey from Trivandrum station. By 12:30 pm we were in ‘Venice of the East’. This namesake of Alleppey is true to the core; Alleppey is beautiful and magnificent. Long stretches of backwaters with shores dotted by evergreen palm and coconut trees… is what defines and identifies Alleppey. Houseboats sailing in these backwaters make it even more picturesque. It was an experience of a lifetime for me when we made an overnight stay in a houseboat. My husband had earlier contacted Mr. Santosh, owner of a houseboat company, through internet. We were given warm welcome at his office. A young porter took us to the jetty and to our houseboat. I was thrilled when my hubby helped me to step on to the houseboat.

Feel of ‘home on water’… delighted and mesmerized me. This cozy home crafted out of bamboo, wood and jute is amazing. Two other people apart from us were in the boat; one sailor man and a chef. The sailor-man was an aged and homely person who always had a smile on his face. The chef cooked us wholesome food but the only thing that irked was the medium of cooking; he was using coconut oil which is not too friendly to our taste buds. Anyways it was good; actually the trip was fun and thrilling that overcame this tiny problem. A funny thing happened… I had asked for some pakoras… but what the chef got for us is a plate full of ripe papaya. Actually this man had language problem; unfortunately we had to gorge on papayas instead of pakoras. When we started from the jetty it was 11 o’ clock; after one and a half hour the sailor anchored the boat in a village close to the shore. We got down and pampered ourselves with coconut water. The houseboat again set sail on the backwaters. I really don’t know how to express it in words… the beauty of the backwaters bordered by tall coconut and palm trees was breath-taking. Nature was green; it was as if Mother Earth has blessed every nook and corner of the place. The view of the adjoining villages and little boys and girls waving at us was wonderful. The rustic charm was intoxicating; the rustle of the leaves was in harmony with the music of the flowing backwaters.

Prior to evening the houseboat anchored for the day. That is the usual practice because the fishermen are out for a catch at this hour of the day. The fishing nets are laid in the water and in the morning they are brought out. Our boat was anchored in a picturesque spot. One coconut tree was bent; seemed it was bowing and welcoming us to ‘God’s Own Country’. The color of setting sun weaved magic all around. The orange tinge in the sky gave way to crystal darkness of night with sparking and twinkling stars. That night was a full moon night; no wonder it was beautiful and romantic. I felt our honeymoon was being blessed from every quarters of nature. I was reclining on the comfortable cushion perched on the front portion of the boat and enjoying the beauty of the night along with my hubby. The lights of the houseboat were dim and it created a perfect environment to enjoy our trip. Everything was so beautiful and serene; music of drums and flute floated from faraway and believe me I was transferred to a dream world. I fell in love with Kerala and the peace-loving local folks. This little nook was no less than a fairy land.

I had a very relaxed and comfortable sleep that night. The morning sun and the harmonics of the birds woke me up. I saw my hubby standing on the deck and capturing the beauty of the place in his camera. It was 8th February and at about 8 in the morning the aged man switched on the motor and houseboat started sailing back. Instead of going back to the jetty we dropped at a convenient place near to our resort at Alleppey. Palmy Resort is a small, family run resort having beautiful cottages for stay. Tiny cottages amidst green palm trees and pretty flower fields were very welcoming. Manoj, a nice man in his 30’s welcomed us cordially; he was the owner of the place and he showed us our way to the cottage. His wife cooked us a delicious lunch. After enjoying the sumptuous meal we visited the nearby Mullekal temple and came back to our resort. The night was spent in chit-chats with the owner and his wife.

On 9th February we bid adieu to Alleppey and boarded the train that took us back to Chennai and hotel Ashoke Residency. The golden wheat fields and the emerald rice fields were waving me goodbye. On the morning of 10th February we reached Chennai and that evening we toured Marina Beach, the longest beach in India on the eastern side of Chennai city. The beach devastated by tsunami was standing in all its splendor though the ravages could be witnessed in some scattered ruins. The feel of fine sand under my feet and the splash of waves made me very happy. My honeymoon chapter was about to close and this visit to the beach was giving the final touches to the entire trip. Happily and merrily I came back to the hotel and packed our belongings. For our dinner we went out to a nearby restaurant and had sumptuous South Indian food.

11th February arrived within a flicker of eye. Coromandel Express left Chennai station at 9 o’ clock in the morning. The train whistled and started off the journey to Howrah. The pace of the train was being matched by the onrush of sweet memories of Tamil Nadu and Kerala that I was carrying in my mind. On 12th February the train reached the ‘City of Joy’. On way back home I could define my state as a mind filled with joy.

The memory of the trip from ‘City of Joy’ to ‘God’s Own Country’ is evergreen just as the emerald strip of land in South India- Kerala.