Ernakulam is an enigma. A district in which sits Kochi, one of the biggest cities in South India. It is also name of the part of a small section of Kochi, a city I have been to dozens of times. So Kochi is in Ernakulam district and Ernakulam is a locality inside Kochi Municipal Corporation. Hellua of a riddle, no? Just that you ain’t going to get time to solve it.
The boy from Babhnan still remembers, vividly, the pleasant surprise he was in for when he landed in the town for the first time. He had always hated the term descent- for many reasons. His aversion to descent in landing came from the fact that descending in a city often killed their character. But for a few iconic landmarks, Delhi would look the same as Mumbai, sans the sea. Phnom Penh would look not much different from Raipur with both looking mofussil as against megapolises.
Ernakulam looked none like that. There was a sea down there, a sea of greens with temples, churches and mosques too growing, almost organically with them. There were few of ugly skyscrapers. It was love at first sight. So was the view outside the airport. Almost rustic, rural, the boy from a small town so readily belonged to. It was love at first sight!
So it was to be on all his later trips to Kerala. From Ernakulam to Thrissur and then a long road trip to Marayur through reserved forest sanctuary to famous tea plantations of Munnar and back.
Wait, it is about Ernakulam, right. There we are. A beautiful district with lots of history, fun and a very happy vibe to it. Go to the Fort area and roam around Mattancherry which supposedly takes its name from Mutton sellers who dotted the street and so it became Muttoncherry- slowly evolving into Mattancherry- Cherry meaning street in Kerala.
Once immersed in the history of the area along with a must visit to the museum there- ask around for a quick backwaters tour for the next day and enjoy Kearala’s beauty in all its glory. Keep some time with you though, as it would take a minimum of 6 hours by a non motorised boat- and that is is the way to go- with pit stops in villages along the beautiful canals. And do not forget to strike a conversation or few with the local boatmen, most of them understand at least Bollywood Hindi. No mean deal that in South India, with many of the regions avere to Hindi imposition and righteously so!
Once done, visit the Kerala Folklore Museum, located at, mind it, Folklore Junction in the heart of the city. Immerse yourself in the history and artifacts of Malabar region, and again, you would require hours and hours for that!
Ernakulam, of course has many other places to offer- the famous Summer Palace, the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, established by no less than the Master himself- Salim Ali in 1986, and the first in Kerala, the shopping areas like Mahatma Gandhi Road- of course, the man has earned this respect, and so on.
What I count as a must, though, is taking a road trip to the interiors of the district. Kerala villages are like, perhaps, none other in India. You won’t believe how really narrow lanes take you to the real riches- not only material one but also cultural one. I have never seen villages cleaner than those in Kerala across India! Stop at roadside stalls for local delicacies, including beef if you are a lover unlike this vegetarian by culture village boy.
And yeah, do not forget to say hi to all the revolutionaries you would come across- Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, name them, sans, surprisingly, Mao. Something to do with the split in Communist Party of India with Maoists having gone on a different path.
Go, explore Ernakulam in beautiful Kerala, God’s or not, the small boy doesn’t know as he slowly turned atheist, but Nature’s very own for sure!