In Kuttanad, which is close to Alappuzha, in the state of Kerala, India, a rare paddy cultivation technique has been prevalent from time immemorial. The paddy fields are below sea level, and the cultivation is after pumping out the water from large areas before the monsoon rains. In modern times, farmers use electric pumps, but earlier they had big rotating wooden wheels to remove water for transplanting paddy saplings.
Kuttanad is my favorite travel destination as its green landscape, vast water bodies, and exquisite local cuisine enticed me to visit this granary of India time and again. Before my recent journey, friends warned me about floods in the region. I was a little hesitant at first, but my love for the great land won my heart.
But on my visit to Kuttanad, I found that everything normal, although the area was totally submerged in the 2018 floods. The region and its hard-working people survived one of the worst calamity of the century. They told me that the very next month they went back to the regular routine of working on fields to prepare for the next season. The people of this paradise can survive any hard time as they are united beyond religion, caste, and political affiliations.
During my trip, I met the host Ms. Girija Pillai who has over 20 years experience in the travel and tourism industry. Although she lived in different parts of India in the past, finally she moved down to her ancestral village to nurture her passion. She re-built the ancient heritage homes named as the Aqua Bliss Resort entirely in traditional Kerala architecture. The wooden cottages with tiled roofs overlooking the majestic Pamba river is a rejuvenating sight for the city dwellers. Who doesn't like a laid back afternoon lazily watching the houseboats plying around and local fisherman do the traditional fishing?
While having lunch at the restaurant which has a fantastic view of the paddy fields around, Girija Pillai explained how she is part of sustainable and responsible tourism. If she has tourists, it helps the community by employing local people, sourcing local produce daily from nearby fields and markets. Her vision is to bring prosperity to local people while helping the development of the country.
No wonder why the food tasted delicious and real. The masalas are locally procured and each dish is cooked in an authentic way as they did for several centuries. The unforgettable dish was the pearl spotted fish fry, which was fresh, juicy and melted in the mouth. The host told me that, usually they serve pearl spot masala fry (wrapped in plantain leaf with masalas and shallow fry it), which is even more appealing to eyes and taste buds. Since my visit was with short notice, so they couldn't get time to prepare the signature dish. Maybe I will have to make one more visit to taste more of Kuttanadan delights?
My favorite activity in Kuttanad is to cruise in the river on a canoe or swim around the resort. The backwaters, the fields and the village life on the shores, and paddy fields, all attract me to visit the God spot in “ The God’s own Country”. The traditional houses around are home to a million loving people who surprise me with their warm hospitality. Everyone I met, the boatman, the shop keeper, the taxi people, the residents, all have their own stories, which they shared with me during my trips. They have time, ears, and eyes and not spoilt by the busy life of metros. Now I know why Ms. Girija Pillai has chosen Kuttanad to fulfill her passion.
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