A Passage to India 4 U

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) – American Author & Humorist

As the leaves magically change colour in the west and pattern our driveways in russet carpets, you know that winter is knot far away. If that makes you think of warmer climes and a happy escape then maybe let the ever gentle classical writer, Mark Twain, decide for you :  

           “So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.

Mark Twain would get a top job today with a global travel advertising agency. But what he says of our beloved India is not over-the-top. Exotic. Exciting. Exhilarating.

Come visit this winter!

Book a room at Alleppey Beach: contact@raheemresidency.com 

Alleppey beach opposite Raheem Residency

Alleppey beach opposite Raheem Residency

 

Advertisements

The Perennial Problem of India’s Litter

Keep our Kerala cities clean.

Keep our Kerala cities clean.

If you follow Twitter – I just started last month @BibiBaskin – some of you may have seen that a good friend and Irish Social Media expert @GregGantyFuzion teased me about my last blog (below). He claimed the picture in the blog is me in disguise!

It isn’t.

My job as M.D. of Raheem Residency is much easier than that of those marvellous ladies who clean Alleppey Beach every morning. So dear friend, @GregCantyFuzion just wait until I get my hands on you! Although I’m anti-violence neck-wringing springs to mind.

But that little blog raises the whole issue of litter in India. And although India as a developing country is clearly making a global mark in many ways – a burgeoning economy, a hugely successful space programme – India still has a distance to go in many areas of development not least of which is public hygiene.

When I came to India more than a decade ago I remember being told that Kerala was the cleanest state in India. I laughed. I looked at the rubbish that was strewn at random everywhere. Discarded plastic water bottles, paper plates – everything imaginable. Then piles of rubbish that had been swept into corners hither and thither and just left there. Since then

  •  I have watched middle-class families get out of their car on Alleppey Beach and calmly throw their waste paper on the ground. I have stood in front of them and picked up while they made a laughing stock of me.
  • I have seen busloads of students toss their used paper plates on the grass verge of the beach, pull away and leave it behind.
  • I have spoken to the Minister of Tourism of Kerala about the situation.
  • I have offered to put waste bins (with Raheem Residency emblazoned on them admittedly) on the beach.

And the facts are these: My beloved average Indian, whose personal hygiene is beyond reproach, has a palpable disregard for property outside his own domain and there is no social stigma or legal deterrent to counteract it. As for me, I am as powerless as a grain of sand in the vast ocean that is our incredible India.

But is the very essence of life itself none other than change? Because yes, I see change pushing its snout around the corner. There are now (horrid blue, plastic) large litter bins piled up close to us ready to be placed on the beach. It will take time to shift them across the road. And those marvellous ladies dutifully pick up after the locals every morning, a government initiative which started about five years ago. And here in my own little domain that is our hotel, there is zero tolerance of litter.

I set our Front Office staff an exercise before I left for Ireland on the last trip. I asked them to write down four things ‘that drive Madam mad’. It was meant as a test of how well they know me. It was also my parting shot at letting them have a go at me for all the times I may have ribbed them.

Litter was tops. There you go.

Our beach, Alleppey.

Our beach, Alleppey.

 

 

Cleaning up Alleppey Beach

Pic by Chef Ananthu

Pic by Chef Ananthu

A spot of rain on Alleppey Beach but it doesn’t stop these ladies from donning their unusual headgear and trotting around with their back-breaking ‘equipment’.

The brush is called a ‘chool’. It’s basically a bunch of bamboo twigs tied with a piece of coir (coconut rope – Alleppey is famous for coconut products).

These ladies are paid by the Kerala government and I suspect our beach is one of a very few beaches in Kerala, if not the only one, to have this lovely clean-up every morning.

We value it and so do our guests at Raheem Residency. But don’t get me going on India and litter. Now there’s not just a blog in that. There’s a right old rant as well. Later.

The Kissing Strike at Alleppey Beach

Pic Kiss 4

 The week that saw a successful Marriage referendum for same sex partners in my home country, Ireland, brought me back to an intimate matter of a related sort which happened outside our hotel in India a while back.

One day around Christmas 2014 Mr Om, our hotel supervisor, came into my office and said: ‘Madam, there’s going to be a kissing strike on the beach.’ I didn’t have to think of a reply. I just blurted out ‘Ah! This is a joke.’

It wasn’t.

The ‘Kissing stirke’ was not accurately named. Officially it was called in English The Kiss of Love campaign. But Kissing strike was good enough in translation. It was a protest. And the protest was by young Malayalees (Keralites) objecting to the old guard who see any form of affection in public as unacceptable. Even something as simple as holding hands or giving a peck on the cheek when outdoors are big no-nos in most of India and Kerala is no exception. And that’s between straight couples only. (Take note if you’re coming on holiday).

The protest indicates a liberal ethos that is perceptibly creeping into Kerala youth. A longing for greater personal freedom which has trickled in through the advent of satellite TV, mobile phones with cameras and the much loved What’s App. These gadgets have brought western culture to the masses and it may be that they like what they see. But for the older generation, such displays of affection in public are nothing short of shameful.

Maybe the real fear is something else? Such affectionate behaviour suggests that there is indeed a relationship going on between two young people. And doesn’t this endanger the widely prevalent custom of arranged marriages (not to be confused with forced marriage) which over 80% of Indians still engage in?

The concept of an arranged marriage means that girl marries boy who are both virtual strangers to each other. The partners are chosen by the parents on both sides and the choice is based around education, job, salary, caste, skin colour and of course a nice fat dowry which the girl’s family must pay to the boy’s. It’s illegal but it happens. Any Indian who follows the arranged marriage system will tell you ‘Love comes later.’

The Kissing strike passed off peacefully. I haven’t seen any young Indian couples kissing on Alleppey Beach since. But after 14 years in this country I have a strong suspicion that the winds of cultural change are blowing.

Art on Alleppey Beach

Sand Sculpture at Alleppey Beach

Sand Sculpture at Alleppey Beach

What a weekend at Alleppey Beach. A feast for the eyes.
Our beach played host to Kerala’s first ever sand sculpture festival. Sand art is basically about creating magnificent shapes from the simple combination of sand and water. The complexity comes into it via the artistic skills of the creators. Human faces, landscapes, animals, mythological figures – creativity and versatility at their best.

We have about 500 artists taking part until April 26th. So pop down to Alleppey Beach and feast your eyes. Maybe pop into Raheem Residency opposite for a cuppa or a cold beer.

And BTW pray it doesn’t rain.

Our blogs – Inside India

In RR Om lights the Kerala lamp

In RR Om lights the Kerala lamp              


Dear Readers,

Thank you all for your response to our new blog. We hope you will stick with us and maybe even tell a friend or two.

So you might like to know what topics we will be covering. Here’s a random sample:

• Info about our Heritage Hotel, Raheem Residency (RR)– behind the scenes as well as front of house
• Must-dos and must-don’ts on a Kerala holiday
• (Intimate) Chats under the Coconut Trees in RR
• Local customs eg the Kissing Strike on Alleppey Beach
• Indian food and the science of curry
• Health and rejuvenation the Ayurveda way
• Damn jet lag!
• Travel tips from a long-haul traveller

And so excited are we about our new blog that we want to share with you the tekkie tips we pick up eg did you know that in 2015 you may be able to SMELL through your Smartphone?
Smell India? Well, maybe yes……and there again, maybe no!
Stay with us!

Guests from Heaven & Hell

Alleppey Beach, Kerala, IndiaIf you want to know what really goes on behind the scenes in a hotel, the place to go is to the great series of Babylon’ books by Imogen Edward-Jones and Anonymous cover several modern industries eg airlines, pop world, the fashion scene as well as hotels.

As we haven’t written a book, we can only tell you some of our experiences of heaven-sent guests and their counterparts from hell.

(All are protected by anonymity, although I’m not sure that some deserve it).

Heaven-sent

The darling couple who, against all odds, found a book from our collection and therefore bearing a Raheem Residency stamp, in a French hotel – clearly left there by an earlier marauding RR guest – and brought it all the way back to us.

Hell-sent

This one is beyond belief. And certainly beyond endurance. He was a walk-in guest (had not booked earlier). The staff showed him three rooms – no, not one them pleased him. He finally opted for one because we were filling up. Secondly he wanted fish for dinner but insisted that it MUST be caught in the sea opposite us just an hour or so earlier. He wanted the entire king fish – that would be about 5 kgs.

At breakfast, he insisted – but I stopped him in his tracks – on coming into the kitchen to cook his own omelette. Well, we had a full house and after he attempted to push past the waiter I was called for back-up. I explained we were full and therefore chaos would ensue if we started to allow guests to cook their own breakfast. ‘He had stayed in countless posh hotels and they all allowed him to do it’, he said. I wasn’t impressed. He had to cook it himself because Indians over-cook their eggs. Still not impressed.

So I compromised.

I personally supervised the light cooking of a damn omelette and it still wasn’t undercooked enough.

My question: has he nothing else to bother about in his life that a bloody omelette is paramount? Sad really.

Another tale from Raheem Residency, located at Alleppey Beach, in Kerala, India 

Bibi Baskin