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Glory Of Heritage

As the year ends, it is perhaps a good time to indulge in a bit of nostalgia and be awestruck by the glories of the past. While the Brunton Boatyard is only about a decade old, if you wander in after roaming the spice markets and the old cobbled streets of Fort Cochin, it is not difficult to imagine that you have been transported to a colonial past—the green lawn, the firangipani, the punkahs and the quiet, broken only by the sounds of boats—you could be in a romantic novel.
As you step into Kalari Kovilakom, a board says, “leave your world behind”. And why not? As you glance through the old black and white prints and step into a room at the old women’s palace, you are ready to let your body relax and begin its healing through the ancient science of Ayurveda.+ Read More

Man And Earth
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Man And Earth

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There once was an Earth
resplendent with trees and flowers,
orchestral with the sound of birds and bees,
where rivers flowed, frolicking with the winds,
giving life to man and beast alike,
where, in the warm embrace of the golden light,
life flourished in happiness and delight,
where, with the seasons’ timely arrival,
man lived and prospered.
 
Time passed.
Man began to progress.
Naming it development,
he dug up the earth, felled the trees,
polluted the waters, spread poison in the air,
turned the lands infertile and sacrificed
the other creatures of the earth
at the alter of his greed.
 
Earth has now lost her balance,
the seasons their bearings.
Here, parched lands cry out
for drops of water.
There, large looming clouds pour down
to destroy and drown.
Here, leaping flames reduce
miles and miles of forests to ashes.
 
There, violent storms sweep and wash away
the homes and lives of men.
Is this nature’s wrath
over misdeeds done?
Or is it nature’s way to remind man
to not think of himself
as the center of creation,
to treasure and share this earth,
to reduce his wants,
to live large with less
and usher in the dawn
of a new age, where there shall be
no race for wealth, no war for power,
no clash of egos, no inflictions of cruelty,
where the earth shall not be divided
by the boundaries of politics
and the dictates of religions,
where heads will bow in respect
and hands reach out to help,
Where, in the buzz of a bee,
in the murmur of the flowing water
in the breath of the wind
In the rustle of the leaves,
man will again learn to hear
the beating heart of the Earth.

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Karaikudi Fantasy Village
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March 28th, 2012 in Category: Holiday Environments, Tradition, VisalamIf you think the outside of a Chettiar home looks awesome, wait till you see the inside. This is one book that you can judge by the cover! Chettiar homes are beautifully crafted, and also opulent mish mashes with a mix of Art deco, colonial and south Indian styles. The walls are of baked bricks, and plastered over by a recipe of egg white and lime, that gives them a pearl-like finish and is washable. Roof tiles get their curve from being shaped on a person’s thigh and one roof would use the tiles made by a single person to give it an evenness. Considering that the roofs were six tiles deep and the houses are of several thousand sq ft, the mind boggles to think about how many tiles a man would have to make to cover one area.
The façade of the house always has an image of the Laxmi, the goddess of wealth sometimes bearing priceless gems on her person, and carvings and friezes of British soldiers, Victorian women and scenes from the Raj.
The homes have heavy doors with massive locks, Italian marble platforms, teak beams, solid teak and stone pillars, chandeliers, ornate woodworked ceilings and much more.
The Chettiars are a very prominent business community, often referred to as the Jews or Marwadis of the south. In the early years, they moved out of India to foreign lands like Burma, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam (Saigon). There are 30,000 of these grand homes spread over 74 villages in the Chettinad region.
Visalam in Karaikudi is unique, because it was built by a devoted father for his daughter; homes here were only built for sons, never for daughters. When it was built nearly 80 years back, it cost Rs 51 lakh.
Visalam in Chettinad is not a palace. But then who would know the difference? The Chettiar really did consider his home to be his castle, so the village is strewn with the most fantastic architecture that date back to a couple of centuries. With the past so easily putting the present in the shade, let’s look at some of the stories that accompany these places and objects of wonder.

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An Ayurveda Adventure
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An Ayurveda Adventure

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March 28th, 2012 in Category: Ayurveda, Experiences, Holiday Environments, Kalari Kovilakom, Stories, Visitors StoriesA best-selling author and metro girl does a body-mind-spirit rehaul at Kalari Kovilakom.

I arrive at the stroke of midnight, in the pitch darkness of a stormy night, through howling winds, lonesome trails and sinister paddy fields. It has been a tedious journey from Delhi-a three and a half hour flight, followed by the precarious three-hour drive through roads destroyed by the furor of the monsoon rains. But I am finally here at KalariKovilakom and it feels a bit like a dream. An angelic lady clad in the classic white and gold garb of Kerala is awaiting my arrival. She welcomes me with a garland of jasmine flowers, washes my feet in warm water, and hands me a pair of bamboo slippers. The only thing I check-in is my soddy sneakers (I am explained that leather is not allowed in the building.) I walk through lanternlit, creaky inlaid-wood hallways, which seem alive with shadows and I climb the three flights of stairs that take me to my room with the feel of luxe and austerity at the very same time. Later I am told that this was once the bedroom of the Princess of Venugad.
I awake the next morning puzzled by the brightness, and I realize that I am in the innards of Kerala. The sun here is not the nascent, tentative one of Delhi, but a full-blown goldenorb. I look out the window and I see the virginal green paddy fields stretch out over the land as far as the eye can see. It is only 6AM, frightfully early for a city-dweller, but most locals are well into their day.
A sudden gust of winds and warm rain rush through the Pallakad Gap, a natural opening in between the Govindathallam mountain range where Kalari Kovilakom is placed. Early in the 19th century (exact dates are unknown), Dhatri Thampuratii, the Queen of Venugad built this palace for the women-folk of the royal family, a zenana of sorts, though her move was instigated by a family feud rather than custom. Today, it remains the last surviving palace of the tiny erstwhile Venugad kingdom. In family records,the palace is referred to as kalari, which literally means “place of practice” as it was constructed on a site where Kalari Pyattu, Kerala’s traditional form of martial arts- one of the oldest in the world, was once practiced. Kovilakom simply means, “abode of the king.”
As I wander around the place, I am not sure how I can describe it. Is it an ashram? An Ayurvedic center? A spa? A hotel? A palace? It is perhaps a little bit of everything- and more, as I am soon to discover. I am here, city-sick, excited but also a tad bit apprehensive of the 14-day Ayurvedic cure that I will undergo shortly. In Delhi, a rigorous travel schedule, and a series of viral infections have left me feeling weak, tired and has pushed my immunity to an all-time low. I am desperate to return to my previous levels of health, energy and exuberance. All research has pointed me towards ayurveda, and on a friend’s recommendation and a desperate leap of faith, I have found myself at Kalari Kovilakom, also called the “palace of Ayurveda” by regular visitors who find it difficult to pronounce the Malayali tongue twister.
After a paltry breakfast of papaya, I am told that my consultation with the vaidya (ayurvedic doctor) is scheduled in an hour. At this unearthly hour (6:30AM) I would like nothing else than a caffeine-infused, saccharine sweet cuppa of chai, and I demurely ask for one. Sreejit, the man in charge of the kitchen, with his decorous demeanor gives me a polite smile and brings me a cup of hot ginger water. No tea, no caffeine, no sugar, no milk. This may be a very long two weeks.

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  • March 18th, 2012 in Category: Cuisine Can anyone visit Kerala and not try the Kerala fish curry? The avail, a mixed vegetable dish, might be the stuff of legend, mentioned as it is in the Mahabharata (story in Oct-Nov issue of Earth Calling), but it is the Kerala fish curry that is truly evocative of this coastal state. A good fish curry is the touchstone of a wife’s cooking skills; men will invariably compare it to their mother’s dish.
  • What makes the Kerala fish curry so special? The Malayali will turn his nose up at the curry that is not made in a cheeni chatti, a clay pot which apparently were brought to these shores by Chinese traders; hence the name. Apart from the spices that go into the curry, the dish has a unique ingredient called gambol (sometimes mistaken for coccum). The fruit, with a tangy flavor, is used in its dried form and is known for its cholesterol fighting property. This is why it is ideal to cook in a clay pot; there is no acidic reaction, unlike if it is cooked in a metal pan. The clay pot has to be tempered before it is first used. The curry tastes best if it is made a day before it is served (though at the hotel it is made fresh), allowing the fish to marinate nicely in the gravy. Traditionally, people only used sardines in the preparation. The seer and other big fish, which has become a status symbol in recent times and replaced the sardine, were considered to heat up the body. But the sardine, apart from being much healthier, also gives the curry a unique earthy flavor.
  • Fort Cochin, the seafood restaurant at Casino Hotel, makes a mean (meen is fish in Malayalam) curry with your pick of fish. But if you want to try the feisty, fiery, authentic sardine kind, Coconut Lagoon will dish it up at the community lunch served on banana leaf.

Meen Pattichathu (Kerala Red Fish Curry)
  • Fish ½ kg
  • Any good fish like Spanish mackerel, Moda (Cobia),
  • snapper, grouper cut into ½” cubes preferably with
  • bone. Sardines are kept whole
  • Red chilli 20
  • Gamboge 10gm soaked in 20 ml of water.
  • Garlic 20 gms sliced
  • Ginger 20 gms julienne
  • Small Onion 100 gms sliced
  • Curry leaf 5 Sprigs
  • Fenugreek seeds ¼ tsp
  • Coconut oil 75 ml
  • Salt to taste
  • Water 100ml
  • Method:
Preparation of the chilly tamarind gravy

1. Grind red chillies with salt and water to a fine paste.
2. In the remaining oil, crackle the fenugreek , small onions (Shallots), garlic and ginger add the chilly paste and simmer till the oil separates from the paste. Blend in the soaked gamboge along with water and
bring to boil and let it cool to room temperature.

Simmering of the fish in the gravy

1. Layer the curry leaves at the bottom of the clay pan along with its sprigs.
2. Lay the half of the fish over the curry leaves and pour over half the portion of chilly tamarind gravy.
3. Continue layering rest of the fish as above and place the vesel over medium flame, bring it to boil, cover
tightly and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4. Do not stir the dish, just swirl the vessel to prevent the fish from breaking
5. Garnish with quick fried curry leaves and red chillies.

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March 17th, 2012 in Category: HistorySo, Pondicherry has a White Town and a Black Town. The former is obviously the celebrated French quarter. The later is the Tamil area, which is slowly gaining prominence thanks to concerted restoration.
Maison Perumal in the Tamil quarter was once a registry office and is run a bit like a home, with a limited staff. It has the typical features of an Indian home, with its veranda and courtyard. And then of course, there is all of Pondicherry to discover.

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Keep Your Diary Free

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March 8th, 2012 in Category: UncategorizedDavid Hall, the art and performance café in Fort Cochin, has a delectable range of events scheduled over the next couple of months. Enjoy the shows and the food in the gardens of this old Dutch building, which is believed to be one part of the office of Dutch administrator Hendrick Van Reede.
Dec 3-22, Painting Exhibition; Group show: Bahuleyan, Sudeesh, Santoshlal, Premjee, Narayanan Kutty
Dec 24- Jan 3, Painting exhibition; Sunil Vallarpadam
Jan 7-22, Painting exhibition; Sunil Laal
Jan 6-29, Crafts exhibition; handicrafts event organised by 100 Hands, which promotes sustainable livelihoods
Feb 18-22, Video installation on Hortus Malabaricus, Van Reede’s celebrated tome on Kerala’s flora; by Renee Ridgeway from Amsterdam

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