Happy Onam Festival to you.

Onam in Indore

A natural flower display for Onam.                                                    Text by RR staff

It’s a very exciting weekend here in Kerala. Onam, a harvest festival, is celebrated all over Kerala regardless of caste & creed during the month of Chingam (01st month of the year in the Malayalam calendar).

In our homes, we Indians (Keralites) have a great feast like westerners have on Christmas day.  But the feast is different, as we have all vegetarian dishes rather than turkey.  The feast is called ‘Sadhya’, with a variety of about 16 dishes and then to top it all, we have the signature dish – the dessert called ‘payasam’ (3 types) also.

Most of the people (Hindus) go to the temple in the morning.  The kids go to pluck flowers from the surrounding areas near their homes and they make a flower carpet (Atthapookalam).  Children are very happy because they are the ones that benefit a lot by getting new clothes & gifts.

In Raheem Residency, we also celebrate Onam. The staff make the flower carpet & also a great feast is prepared with a variety of vegetarian dishes & payasam also. All the staff sit together, and enjoys the feast.  We include guests too in Chagara Restaurant but there is one golden rule : guests must eat like we do – that is, with no cutlery! We believe that the food tastes better when we quietly use our fingers. Our guests always enjoy the challenge.

So we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a Happy & Prosperous Onam wherever you are in Kerala.

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Speak English in Kerala

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When you visit us in Raheem Residency undoubtedly you will want to show a certain sensitivity to the local culture. This can be done in many ways but for those who like language an obvious entry point would be to learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in Malayalam, the local language in Kerala. Or so you would think.

Not so. Don’t even bother.

The Malayalam language, like certain other Indian languages, has none of the romance of sound that is in French, for example. It has none of the curves – the soft swoops of idiom – of the English language. All direct and to the point. So no need for extras like please and thanks.

In fact, the easiest way to hear the word ‘please’ in Kerala is on those frustrating recorded telephone messages where a very cheerful lady tells you that the caller is busy so PLEASE (DEV-aye) call later. You won’t pick it up in the course of normal communication. It’s not there.

For certain westerners, it feels like a stripped down language in both sound and idiom. Full of rolling ‘rs’ with tongues thrashing around the mouth in all arts and parts. And startlingly curt when it comes to giving orders.

I remember once reading an American author (name lost in the sands of time) who said that he couldn’t imagine an Indian man saying any kind of romantic lovey-dovey stuff to his wife. Maybe they do. But here in the south where the languages such as Malayalam, Tamil etc are from the Dravidian School of languages the rolling of the ‘rs’ is varied, loud and needs serious tongue acrobatics. And no, it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s cut out for sweet nothings.

So if you want to show a certain sensitivity to the local culture just speak English. The local folk welcome any opportunity to get in a bit of practice. And you will be welcomed with open arms……….well, no, because touching is not culturally acceptable. But that’s a whole other story.

Kerala Monsoon Myths

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Do you like to holiday when few tourists are around? When good quality accommodation is really cheap? Then come to Kerala during the monsoon.

No, it doesn’t rain all day every day. That’s the first myth about monsoon.

No, it isn’t cold. For those of us not born in a tropical climate, we WISH it would cool off. Sometimes the locals will say ‘It’s cool today.’ And yes indeed there was a temperature drop. Of one miserable degree celsius! The average daily temperature during monsoon is around 29C. Nice and warm.

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But what about the rain? Well, imagine a warm shower. Heavy at times, yes. But it tends to come in strong bursts rather than a continuous flow all day long. And no, we can’t predict it exactly at this stage. But at the end of May we can be sure that India will start to nuzzle up to two big arms of rain, one from the east and one from the west.

The monsoon hits the southern tip of Kerala first. It used to begin with great precision on June 1st. But with climate change allegedly it now starts before the end of May in Kerala and the two big arms meet together in central India sometime in July.

Local people don’t like rain. But then they haven’t experienced the pin prick sensation of cold, sharp rain clawing at your face. So everyone stays indoors. And as a tourist, you’ll have the place to yourself. Lovely.

Ayurvedic tradition has it that as the rain rejuvenates the earth so also are our bodies and minds more susceptible to rejuvenation at this time. So if you are serious about doing a week-long or more course in Ayurveda, you really should come to Kerala during the rainy season. That’s June and July.

Heavenly!

Check out our off-season rates through our Front Office contact@raheemresidency.com

Laid-back Kerala!

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Laid-back Kerala indeed! Well, that’s how holidays should be.

But we often notice in Raheem Residency that hard-working guests often bring their age-old patterns of living with them.  Rushing there, arriving early, clock-watching. You know it. You’ve done it.

What a pity!

You don’t actually see a Keralan (Malayalee) rush.  You don’t see one run. And these aficionados of an easy-going life-style never panic.

Is there something worth copying here? There certainly is when it comes to holidaying.

It has been difficult to explain to local staff that if a guest books, say, an Ayurvedic massage for 2pm, then the therapist should be at her station by 1.45. Why? Well, it’s not just to prepare. It’s because invariably the western guest will NOT arrive on time. He/she will arrive early. A concept that nobody in laid-back Kerala can fathom!

Think about it. You’re on holiday. Relax. We want you to!

Relaxing Ayurveda

Happy Holi

HOLI-facebook.jpgIt’s the Festival of Holi this weekend in India. It’s particularly popular in North India and Nepal. Some children in Kerala will also celebrate it but in a more muted fashion. The real pleasure comes from throwing powdered dyes at everyone you meet. No one is spared, not even your boss!

Holi, from the Sanskrit,  marks the end of the winter, the arrival of spring and at an even deeper level the triumph of good over evil. So it’s day of great celebration, of re-newing old friendships and of huge meals! Even the separation imposed by the caste system is overlooked at Holi.

It lasts for two days starting on the Full Moon day.  Holi Eve sees the lighting of bonfires but the real fun is for the children who take great delight in being ‘naughty’ with their playful coloured dyes.

The legend behind the festival is centered around Holika, a female demon, and the sister of Hiranyakashyap, the demon king. Hiranyakashyap considered himself ruler of the Universe, and higher than all the gods.

Prahalad was the king’s son. His father hated him because Prahalad was a faithful devotee of the god Vishnu and so he decided to murder his son. But the king’s attempts at murder didn’t quite work. Prahalad was thrown over a cliff, trampled by elephants, bitten by snakes, and attacked by soldiers. But still he survived.

So the king asked his sister, Holika, who had special powers that made her immune to fires,  to kill the boy. And so she sat in the middle of a fire with the boy on her lap. Things did not go according to plan. Because she was using her special powers to do something that was inherently evil her power disappeared and she burned to death. But the lad survived and late went on to become king himself.

We, at Raheem Residency, wish you all a happy Holi.

 

 

U Want to see Elephants?

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Sadly, the Indian elephant is now an endangered species because the population has declined by half over the past three generations. The usual culprit is at play – habitat loss. But Kerala comes out well. There is still a considerable population in the wild and we, at Raheem Residency, can arrange for you to see them. There are also elephant ‘orphanages’ and we can arrange a trip to bring you on a visit. These elephants  have been injured in the wild and are are homed in venues around the state.

If you take a tour of an elephant orphanage it’s possible that you can bathe them in the early morning, feed them and even ride them. But you need to check with Raheem Residency’s Front Office as naturally the elephant population changes in the ‘orphanage’ as rehabilitation is ongoing.

These glorious animals play a significant role at Hindu temple festivals too. One of Kerala’s best known temples at Guruvayur has an average sixty elephants and at the famous Thrissur Pooram (festival) the large collection of caparisoned (decorated) elephants is an unforgettable sight. The role of the elephants at temple festivals is to carry the deity in a procession where their mahout who guides them will be decked out with multi-coloured silk parasols, silky white tufts and ofttimes swaying peacock feather fans.

India knows how to create a spectacle. There’s no denying that.

 

 

 

3 Reasons to visit Kerala

 

© City Image / Alamy

Lighthouse Beach, Kerala.

    1. THE SUNSHINE

Who can resist 30C every day? In monsoon (June/July) the temperature ‘drops’ to 29C. You may hear our local staff remarking that it’s ‘cool’. If you’re a westerner you won’t agree and we don’t expect you to! This tropical climate is such a welcome escape from the dark cold days of a western winter. Dining al fresco, sunbathing by the pool, walking the beach, punting down the waterways – it’s all waiting for you in Kerala.

     2. THE PEOPLE

Malayalees (the people of Kerala whose language is Malayalam) are well-known for their friendliness and gentleness. You can speak to our staff, all of whom are native to Kerala, and you are guaranteed a friendly response. But even a short walk outside our property will give you ample opportunity to befriend locals – many of whom will speak some English. And you won’t be disappointed. In fact you may end up with an invitation home which will give you an even deeper understanding of the local way of life. Don’t miss it!

   3. THE BACKWATERS

Our area of Kerala, the Alleppey area, is renown for its wide expanse of waterways, an exquisite mish-mash of lakes, rivers and canals. You won’t want to miss a cruise or a punt amidst this serene scenery, showcasing local life on the river banks. The women doing their laundry, the men gliding past in small boats. As the saying goes, all human life is there. And it’s there for you to witness at first hand.

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