The resilience I’m blessed with or the deep appreciation I have for nature and its beauty probably stems from the first 10 years I spent in the most amazing place called Alappuzha. With her seductive backwaters, lagoons and canals, and plenty of other picturesque features no wonder Lord Curzon called Alappuzha the “Venice of the East”.
Our family, belonging to a middle-class Christian family, was settled in a place called ‘Chungom’. Our house overlooked our paddy fields and canals. I proudly bear the scars of my childhood – from climbing trees and falling repeatedly, running the fields bare-feet with friends during summer,and by getting stomped on by a vast amount of people during ‘Mullakkal Chireppu’ (local carnival) . My fathers pure passion for ‘vallam kali’ (Nehru Trophy Boat Race) and competing in the Nehru Trophy as a captain of their boat for one too many years also meant that Nehru trophy, ‘kuttanadan punchayille’ song, the competitiveness and the innate resilience from constantly losing the first place (Sorry daddy!) are all well inherited by me and my sisters.
There was one other thing that was a constant companion during these 10 years- ‘Saibol cream’. House built near acres of paddy fields meant that, during monsoon seasons fields flooded, and in no time, the water would be inside our houses. Us kids loved it- swimming and “trying” to catch fish, why would we mind it?!.
Even though we ‘loved’ it, every morning when you had to get out of bed or go to the bathroom, it took sheer amount of will power and a good couple of minutes before putting the feet down in the cold water. And at night, it itched like there’s no tomorrow.
We grew up with our Ammachi (grandmother) during these years. Shed be walking in the water all day running the house and at night, her toes would be itchy with all the bacteria and she would rub ‘Saibol’ in between her toes.
I experienced this for 10 years..my Ammachi may be for over 60 years after marrying into a family from Alappuzha in her early 20’s. She was accustomed to floods and water and stayed fearless…till this monsoon season. After fleeing her house, going to her oldest daughters and then to her youngest (due to her oldest daughters house being also flooded), at the age of 88, I heard fear in my Ammachis voice for the first time and I could do absolutely nothing about it.
My family house was rebuilt 10 years ago so high from the ground that they never had water inside the house for over a decade. Water still went inside. It was over knee high of my uncle who is 6 ft high. He had to abandon the house, sell all their much beloved animals who were their family members and take rescue.
Now the mentioning of the class again, this is a middle class family who were able to have their house built appropriately according to the area. Now, for those who were unable to afford that..I will leave it up to you to imagine where their house is now apart from pointing out the obvious that ‘Kuttanadu’, a part of Alappuzha, rich with culture, characteristics and Love is pretty much gone. If you were to visit a house is Kuttanadu or Alappuzha..you wouldn’t have gone back home without a full stomach and may be some ‘tharavu curry’ to take back with you.
And if you know anything about a Kerala curry, you know that its a perfect blend and balance of spices and ingredients that just makes the most amazing curry- an imbalance of any one ingredient can cause trouble for instance, chilli or salt.
In the past few days, people have been extremely kind, generous and helpful in Kerala and outside Kerala. Regardless of cultural, geographical, relihious or scoial boundaries, people came together, like a perfect mix. From a kind Sikh individual from Perth, Australia who raised £1000 to School and University students who have given up whatever little they had in order to save Kerala, I have enough to restore my faith in humanity.
And the next time you eat a tharavu curry from Alappuzha (and I any other delicious kerala curry as I dont eat duck), I hope you and I both be reminded of how all the perfect incredients came together and made a good curry during this crisis (if you know, you know).
One thing people of Kuttanadu, Alappuzha and Kerala are good at is working hard. Like them, I along with my fellow British Malayali youth, we will commit to raising even more funds, to help rebuild our homeland, Kerala, as I think ‘Saibol’ cream is just not going to be enough to able to fix the damages of this flood.