Picture yourself swinging gently in a hammock perfectly positioned by an exclusive fresh water lake, surrounded by lush greenery - a forest on one side, exotic plants, and spice and herb garden on the other. All of this leading straight on to a beautifully landscaped garden with an 'infinity' swimming pool and the most delicious succulent fruit literally falls off the trees. The only noise is birdsong and a slight breeze. This is the authentic and unspoilt Keralan experience - worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of all those Indian cities.
Three days ago we had a true celeb's welcome here at the Dewalokam homestay; their 12 friendly members of staff were lined up to greet us with jasmine garlands, fresh coconut water, mystical type of incense and we were anointed with a beautiful smelling potions - it was highly embarrassing and heart-warming all at once.
Being able to eat everything without even the slightest of concern here in India is a godsend in itself but here we have two dedicated chefs producing some of the best Indian fayre ever. In a coconut shell I have been catapulted into food heaven. Only the tastiest organic food and veg are readily available from Dewalokam's on-site farm - think pineapples, jack fruits, papayas, lychees (4 versions), coconut groves (of course) guava, custard apples (over 3 varieties), vanilla pods, coffee beans (unbelievably good), cocoa beans, fresh geese eggs, homemade goats cheese, bananas (at least 5 varieties), cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon grass, camphor and some of the rarest herbs with essential medicinal properties.
Every day I watch the cooking demos and get to help out too (a hindrance more like). Today it was banana leaf with around 20 different samples of food and spices; this morning we had cashew milkshake (fresh milk from the resident cows of course). yesterday it was 3 varieties of banana for breakfast and a freshly grilled red snapper with tender veg , followed by vermicelli with fresh cinnamon. I cannot recommend this homestay enough, the founders are a highly educated couple who are exceptionally helpful and just want it to be non-profit so that they can plough back monies into further agricultural development by planting more endangered trees and herbs, boosting the local economy by creating jobs and giving visitors a glimpse of unspoilt and traditional Keralan life. Since marketing isn't their forte, I volunteered to help - they now want me to consider working with them! If you or any of your friends like the sound of this taste of paradise then just let me know - and their soon to be revamped website is: www.dewalokam.com
Not much time for reflection though - so much to do and see. There's the nearby waterfall, the local village, bird spotting, fruit bat spotting, water rafting (serene version), rubber-tapping and I even tried some angling (caught a log of wood as the fish skillfully removed the worm without getting harmed - was kind of pleased about that!). We were also guests of honour at the local school, not realising they wanted us to deliver part of their assembly to nearly 500 children. After booking in for Ayurvedic treatments at the world renowned hospital (and then chickening out - too much oil and pummelling for me) I was sorely tempted to get involved in the local town's demonstration against an imminent water bomb. Every day there are peaceful demonstrations by school children since Keralan scientists maintain that the dam constructed nearly 200 years ago in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu needs renovation otherwise there is a risk of it flooding over 30% of this state. They believe it is an impending agricultural and tourist disaster which, at worst, could kill as many as 3.5m people. According to scientists from Tamil Nadu it is not necessary and the main parliament in Delhi just isn't making a decision - needless to say the bottom line is always about saving 'big bucks'.
In the meantime literally school by school, hundreds of impeccably well-disciplined children are taking to the streets, waving placards and singing in unison against this possible catastrophe. When one primary school caught sight of us they started clapping and it was really tempting to join in the demo - we know that would have secured local press ... and then national press... and then broadcast media... and then who knows.... an Indian slammer!! Probably a lot safer watching all of this from the outside.