Published: March 3rd 2012February 21st 2012
Driving around Kerala one of the things you immediately notice is the amount of communist iconography that is hung, pasted and tied throughout the towns of Kerala. In most towns the majority of houses and shops will have at least one communist flag hanging proudly on display, bill boards with posters of local communist politicians, Lenin and Che Guevara are also commonplace. Posters of Stalin, Mao, Kim Jong Sung (North Korea) are noticeable in their absence, guess though tyrants don’t make such good poster boys. Kerala is India’s one and only communist state, though what this means in practice though I’m not sure. It struck me as very odd that an extreme left wing ideology that is anti capitalist and anti democratic would find any major support in a very materialistic, very capitalist and very democratic nation, especially as communism has largely been proven (in my eyes anyway) ineffective due to the unstoppable nature of human greed and lust for power. I would be interested to know how Kerala became a communist state and what in practice this actually means as I’m sure many of the local communist parties policies must be at a complete logger head with the national parliaments
I saw a few signs of communist party influence throughout Kerala, the main things I noticed were the number of unions in each town for every conceivable type of worker and also 0% margin supermarkets (i.e super markets run by the state that sell food at cost price). I’m sure local people loved the 0% margin supermarkets however I wonder what local shop keepers thought of them as they obviously would not be able to compete with them on price. Too add to the mystery Kerala appeared to be a wealthy state, most homes here were built to a good/very good standard and levels of poverty and development appeared to be lower and higher respectively than in the other Indian states we had passed through. So not exactly the sort of place you would normally think would take to communism. I’m afraid I don’t have any answers on the Kerala communism conundrum currently but will do some research soon to find out more.
Varkala reminds me of the Cornish coastline, although not that much really, infact the only real similarity is that the beaches of Varkala are also surrounded by high cliffs, that’s pretty much
where the similarities end. In fact It’s actually easier to point out the differences between the two, for example Varkala’s cliffs are clay red (like Painton) not grey, the sea is much warmer, the beaches have people on in February, the weather is much hotter than the UK ever gets and most importantly Varkala is in India whereas the Cornish coastline is the UK or independent country of Cornwall depending on your political leaning and grasp of reality. Despite being very different to the Cornish coastline in almost everyway Varkala is still a stunner, certainly when looking down on the beach from the cliff path. I generally prefer the archetypal tropical, palm fringed beach to the more rugged cliff edged beach, however the view down onto the golden sounds of the Varkala beaches from the cliff path is fantastic. This is especially true on the Northern peninsula of the main beach where the sand stops and fades into a beautiful rocky outcrop which stretches dramatically around the corner and up the coast for several miles. The beaches of Varkala are nice but nothing worth writing home about, the real beauty of Varkala is it’s laid back atmosphere, which we found
was best enjoyed with a beer/fruit juice in hand at one of the many stunning restaurant roof terraces which line the cliff edge and have fantastic views over the beach and water below. Sundowner heaven.
On the subject of restaurants Varkala has some pretty decent Seafood, on one evening a few of us shared a Tandoor cooked butter fish following advice from many locals that this was the best tasting. The fish was a tempting orange/red from the Tandoor marinade and was slightly charred on the edges. The fish was perfectly cooked and true to its name the fish meat was so soft it melted in your mouth, the soft delicate flesh was complemented perfectly by the slightly crunchy charred edges which had been spiced perfectly by the rich and flavourful tandoor marinade. It was a fantastic piece of fish and one I certainly hope to be eating again in the future.
I often find that in really chilled out place like Varkala where there is little to do but relax and watch the world go by that I find myself contemplating my life, my plans for the future and the ‘whats life all about’ conundrum. Fortunately here
Kathakali dancers applying makeup
The intricate process of applying the makeup takes around 2 hours to complete
are some great people on this trip for me to bounce my ideas off and get advice from. All of the people I’m travelling with have interesting back stories and life experiences, especially some of the older travellers who managed to get away in the golden travelling age of the 1960’s. In Varkala Peter, Martin, Sonia and myself sat down and had a really interesting conversation about life, work and what really matters in life and makes us happy. The conversation helped crystallize some ideas and viewpoints I have been considering for a long time, namely time is the most important commodity, we should work to live not live to work and family/friends are the key to contentment/happiness and not money. It feels like something of a revelation to have realised all of this while I’m still in my youth, I now feel compelled to act on this knowledge and change the way I live life forever. Indeed I can no longer imagine going back to my old life working 9-5 making money for someone else all for 25 days a holiday a year. I’m not 100% sure exactly what I will do yet (I still have plenty of
time to think about it) but I know that
1. I want to work for myself and thus make money for myself
2. I don’t want to my job to consume my life and stress me out, I want time to enjoy myself
3. I would like to be able to take 2-3 months off a year or at least be able to work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection
4. I should enjoy my job and it should be related to something I’m interested in
You may be thinking get real idiot, everyone thinks/would like to do that but it’s not possible. However I really do think it is possible and have met people who have this life style. It’s something most people could have with a combination of a little capital, willingness to learn and a little bit of faith in yourself. You can buy my DVD on how to get happy and rich quick for only $999! Seriously though I do think it is possible, I’m not sure of my exact route yet but I’m perhaps thinking of starting with a combination of forex trading, stocks and shares
and maybe some investment of some variety (perhaps land/property). I plan on doing some research this year and perhaps even to start doing some tentative trading. Any tips and/or advice would be very much appreciated.
Day time in Varkala we chilled, in the evening we drunk. After the disappointment of the Goa party scene, or rather lack of party scene, we all needed a good night out. The Rock and Roll bar (an Australian/Indian joint venture) was our venue and the perfect place, indeed the only place in Varkala where we could really get on the wagon and do/observe some seriously bad dancing. Rock and Roll sold cocktails for 1.20 gbp which were both strong and (mostly) tasty and had a very pleasing closing policy of we shut the bar when the drink runs out (usually about 3am). We had two great nights here including what otherwise would have been a depressing valentine’s day. It was nice to finally party after a month on the road but I will probably need at least a month to get over the partying we did in Varkala!
One night in Varkala we went to a Kathakali dance show. Kathakali dancing (more
theatre than pure dance) is a Keralan speciality that dates back 1000’s of years. I’ve seen a fair few ‘cultural’ dance shows over the years and have often found them to be average at best, excruciatingly dull at worst (oh you uncultured swine!) , so needless to say I was not particularly looking forward to this show. I’m pleased to say however that the Kathakali dancers bucked the usual ‘cultural’ dance trend and were at least mildly entertaining if not quite entertaining, I would certainly recommend people to go and see them, but would not be to bothered about seeing them again myself. So what made the Kathakali dancers different to the other ‘cultural’ dance shows, well
1. Their makeup is fantastic and unbelievably vibrant and intricate, it takes around 2 hours to apply the make up for each performer. The performers also place seeds inside their eyelids which make their eyes go red and look unbelievably uncomfortable. Now that’s dedication.
2. The performance was short (around 1 hour) and as such didn’t feel like it dragged
3. You could just about figure out what the story was about and what was going on
percussion which accompanied the performance was fantastic, especially a drum solo which was both hypnotic and impressive in its complexity and creativity
5. The big black demon with Madonna style breasts decided to choose me as her love interest, actually maybe this was a negative point
The story of the dance in short goes as follows. Female demon falls in love with Shiva’s son. Female demon shape shifts into a beautiful woman. Demon as beautiful woman tries to attract Shiva’s son and asks him to marry her. Shiva’s son rejects the shape shifting demons advance and the demon gets angry. Demon switches back to her original appearance and then Shiva’s son battles her and cuts of part of her nose and breast. Performance ends. All performers are male and female characters are played by men in costume/makeup, as was the case in old English Theatre.
We were sad to leave Varkala and in my case a little daunted to know that for the next 2 weeks we would only have 1 night stops in each city with hell of a lot of travelling and an even more hellish amount of temple visits in between. It’s a terrible
thing to say given how lucky I am to be away but I really wasn’t looking forward to the next stretch up to Calcutta or at least up to the tribal heartlands of Orissa where we would be camping.
Next stop the Southern tip of India, the halfway point of the tour and the beginning of the journey back to the North......
There are more photos below