The frothy crests from the Arabian Sea ride the surging waves and lash the sandy shores to expire later in a last hiss. The sounding cataracts rush down in relentless falls, foaming and spraying the lush greenery that abounds in their environs. The rhythm of the ‘panchavaadyam’ and ‘shingaary melam” resonate in the air and syncopate with my heartbeats. The evening breeze is cooled by the fragrance of jasmines that gleam in the waning twilight. The coconut fronds sway under the haunting moon, forming a serrated canopy and the mango trees bloom into creamy pagodas with promises of delectable fruits. And I dream, “I am home”.
Nestled between the majestic Western Ghats and the expansive Arabian Sea, Kerala lay, for centuries, ready for the avid traders from Phoenicia, Rome, Judea, Arabia, China, and later Europe. They came to her shores for the precious gems, spices, ivory, exotic birds and wood. Kerala’s ports like Muziris (modern Kodungallur) were well known to the traders of exotic and expensive goods.
But, now, so many of us have left her shores for distant lands! Yet, we carry the torch for this green gem, this land retrieved from sea by the bloodstained axe of the epical Parashu Rama.
We still chuckle at the humor in Kunjan Nambiar’s satiric, but vivid portrayals of Rukmini’s foolish suitors in “Rukmini Swayamvaram”. We grieve with the deaf Vallththol’s “Badhira Vilaapam” and sigh at the transient nature of our lives in Kumaaran Aashan’s “Veena Poovu” and “Karuna”. Ramapurathu Varrier’s “Kuchelavritham Vanchipattu” kept the beat of the boat races for us. Changampuzha’s “Ramanan” can still move us with the lyrically tragic love in his pastoral elegy. G. Shankara Kurupp’s iconoclastic poems urge us to stand by our beliefs and values.
Who can forget the inimitable Soori Namboothirippadu in Chanthu Menon’s Indulekha, the nineteenth century pioneer novel in Malayalam? Keshava Dev’s Odayil Ninnu and Mudiyanaaya Puthran have honed our social outlooks. We laugh at society’s flaws and foibles in E. M. Kovoor’s Honey Puraanam. Umma in Bashir’s Ntuppaappakkoru Aanendarnnu reminds us about Amanda in Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie. The story of the star crossed lovers and the folk beliefs in tandem with nature’s vagaries in Thakazhi’s Chemmeen have been immortalized for us in all the visual media.
Kerala has served us well with heroes and heroics. The bravery and patriotism of Pazhassi raja and Velu Thambi Dalawa in taking a determined stand against the British, even at the risk of their own lives, will stand in good stead in our efforts in not allowing our individualities to be submerged in a herded culture.
The swashbuckling stories of Thachcholi Othenan , Thachcholi Chanthu, Aaromal Chekavar, Unni Aarcha, and Ummini Thanka are still exhilarating. Marthanda Varma’s fight against the treacherous feudal lords and the Mamaankam of the Samoothiri of Kozhikkode have come down to us in the many chapters of history and romance.
We are standing on the shoulders of giants. Shakthan Thampuran’s planning of the city of Thrissur is an example of visionary farsightedness. Swaathi Thirunnal’s statesmanship nurtured the kind of education we carried with us. Raja Raja Varma solidified the structure of Malayalam and strengthened our means of communication. We have benefited from all these.
Today, Kerala is still with us in our hearts. That is our heritage. We gather together to savor that which came with us. We forge communities based on what we carried. We organize our activities colored by our heritage. Now we communicate through this venue because of our commonality, our heritage.