almost paradise

A valley in the mountains of Kerala

“Out of a calamity history has shown that humans end up at their best”. 

Before we enter into this valley in the mountains it is important that we learn a little bit about history first. After the first world war Europe and Britain suffered from a great depression, where poverty and suffering was widespread across the continent. The British during that time were still ruling over vast stretches of land across Asia and Africa. Their way to ease their suffering was simple, they took wealth from their colonies. Europe could not hold peace for long and with the second world war looming, the British pressure on the colonies grew and many countries were completely drained of their resources. 

  Those who know Kerala would agree that it is not easy to imagine a famine in a stretch of land so rich. Yet the looting of the British left its mark and a famine broke out. While the world decided to explore their barbaric side, the local Government was forced to settle people into uninhabited forests. And so the story of the people in the mountain valley was born. A mix of Christians and Hindus ended up being force settled into a deep, inaccessible and forested valley in the hills of central Kerala. Left alone and forgotten they had to build their lives. For a long time no one cared on how they lived and what they did. India became independent and had its own share of rebuilding to do. 

  Thanks to my friend Thomas, who introduced me to Annu, who runs a small NGO in the valley, I had a chance to go there and learn of their story. 

   Annu, my good friend Pratik and myself decided to visit the valley last September. There is nothing but a treacherous and steep Jeep track leading into the valley.

Today there are 80 families, spread in individual houses across the valley and a few small side valleys. From one house we were joined by Ravi, our ever smiling guide. A simple farmer, who decided to take us around. Lunch we were served in the house of Kunju and Molly and tea in some of the other houses we visited during the day. 

   I had been mentally prepared to meet a few poor souls thrown into a valley among tigers and elephants, that had somehow managed to survive. And of course it was not so. Luckily I have grown accustomed to the lessons of humility India is so generous to hand out. I realised fast that these folks were not part of an indigenous community, accustomed and used to live off the forest. These were educated people ending up in this far off place by fate. The hurdles they had to overcome to make live somewhat bearable were immense. Electricity reached the valley only half a year ago. The jeep track came just a few years ago, making it easier to transport goods into and from the valley. Before the track was built, people carried the few goods they sold to the outside world on their back, mostly Cacao, pepper and a bit of rubber. The forest department even built for some reason a bus stand in the center of the valley, even though there is no way a bus can reach trough that road. 

   The most amazing fact that struck me throughout the day was, how content these people were with their life. There was a gentleness from within them, as if they had found a special ingredient for harmony and peace. In our talks with Ravi, we realised that they were not at all cut off by whats happening in the outside world. The newspapers they got, were maybe at times a few days old, but who cared, they knew all there was to be known. They had radio with batteries all along and since electricity there are even a few TV’s here and there. Plus so many went out to work, study and trade. Most of them came back after a few years to get married and settle in the valley with less rush and stress. The purity of the food was another reason they came home.  

   Ravi explained that they never had a doctor. Nobody fell ill anyway, since the food they grew was so pure. No fertiliser, no pesticides, wild honey as sweetener, just all pure and fresh. 

      The small amount we paid for our visit went into a common pot. Later if it would be more they would collectively decide what to do. Maybe it would be used to improve the school, because they made sure that all the kids at least got the basic education. 

   When I hinted that maybe tourism would alter their pattern of live, Ravi looked at me again with his bright and gentle eyes and reminded me like a child, that the knew exactly what is out there in the world. According to him this was the place that was safe and gave shelter to people, when out “there” the world fell apart. After all, he said; “how can we teach them how to live, if they do not come and see our way of life”? 

The valley can be visited from cgh earth Spice Village resort on prior information. For details please write to: beatgermann@cghearth.com

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