Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Plucking Pineapple and the Paparazzi

Driving inland we passed through rubber estates, pineapple farms and the most beautiful houses - painted bright and exotic colors - popping out between the multiple different shades of lush green foliage and soon arrived at Dewalokam Farm. For anyone Kerala bound this is the place to go!! Jose and Sinta are the most delightful hosts, they planned our days with care and thought and we had those wonderful conversations, you seem to get so rarely, your country/my country, politics, religion, considered opinions with no one taking personal offense or becoming defensive, everyone listening and learning.

Within yards of the house we saw papaya, bananas, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, lemon grass, frankincense, cocoa, coffee, mangosteen (and this is all I can remember) growing. We ate lychees we picked  from the tree and Adam plucked one of his favorite fruits which we ate for lunch.

 I have to confess I had not known how pineapple was grown until this trip! The farm is totally organic and everything is recycled/composted including the cow dung. It is collected, mixed with water and then fed into an underground tank where the methane given off is piped to the kitchen where it is used for cooking delicious food for all the guests, drivers and staff. The remainder is dried and used as manure for the rest of the farm. I really don't understand how when a small family farm can "reduce, re-use, recycle" the western world cannot!  Everything in our lunch was grown here at the farm, and if you take a look at our lunch and you'll see that is pretty impressive!
And yes, it tasted as good as it looks! To see it grow and then eat it with your fingers - its so fresh and earthy - good job for the waistline we were only here 3 days!

We did have some serious rain - so far in Kerala we'd had some drizzle and the odd very short sharp shower but as I sat on the balcony writing this we had enduring, heavy, heavy big drops of rain which was strangely beautiful, maybe because it is still warm and makes the green look all the lusher - it just exudes health and fertility, you can see, smell and feel it.
We are not the only ones who need shelter/protection from the rain- the rubber trees needed help too.
Each morning a fresh cut is made on through the bark of the tree which is sheltered from the rain while the syrup drips into a plastic cup. The white syrup is then collected. I think its so good when the boys can see at first hand where the stuff/materials/food they take for granted comes from - how our life is sustained from the ground and hence how important it is to take care of our planet. 

The liquid rubber is taken to the manual processing house where it is sieved, mixed with water and formic acid and then left for 2 hours to set. It is then put through the mangle and pressed into sheet form, before being dried out, smoked and sold to the factory.

One of the highlights of our whole trip was the visit Jose and Sinta arranged to the local school. The  school is run by a catholic organization, the principal Father Johnson. As we got out of the car there was a welcoming party - complete with bouquets of flowers put together by the students and of course bindis. We had a short talk with Father Johnson whose passion for his students and their education was obvious. 

The daily assembly found all the 600 kids standing quietly in lines. Several kids led the school in their pledge and various "thoughts" for the day, to which everyone listened quietly and attentively, no fidgets. And then we were introduced - firstly Simon - his education and position at Infosys highlighted (definitely a bit of intellectual snob value having his PhD from Oxford), then the rest of us and we took our position on the stage. Simon, firstly, was asked to say a few words - he talked about the importance of education, learning English and setting and attaining your goals. Adam also spoke really confidently and clearly about his schools in the US and India (I was very proud of him!!)  and I said a few words about our stay in Kerala. Look how attentively these kids are listening.

We then visited several classrooms for question and answer sessions. The school is not government funded but costs are kept low - about 300 rupees  ($7) per month per kid. Jose sends his kids here as does his staff.  
These kids are driven and focused but still all smiles and fun. All the
kids from 4th grade up had ambitions and plans -  there were rooms full of potential doctors, scientists, engineers and computer geeks, maybe one cricketer! They could also all immediately name their role models from Mahatma Ghandi, Indira Ghandi, various Indian freedom fighters to their parents. No pop icons or sportsmen. Their parents can see a better life ahead for them and believe education is the best gift they can give their kids to help them on their way. At this school the teachers are going to help make that happen. This is a country where there is still the belief that you can realize your dreams and most of the dreams are still worthy.

Ads got to sit and chat with his 7th grade compatriots!

The pre-kinder class was a real eye opener 41 kids, one teacher and the best behaved class - no  wriggling and fidgeting or prodding and poking their neighbors, typical 4/5 year old behavior! They actually write in cursive at five and are learning three languages, the local language, Hindi and English. So did the teacher appear a strict old witch? - absolutely not, did the kids appear drugged or terrified into submission? - absolutely not. A bright friendly teacher and a lot of bright looking kids - no idea what the secret is! Just looking at these kids, their teachers, the zest for learning, their ambitions for the future, all coming from such humble backgrounds is surely food for thought!
And our visit hit the headlines!!

The local language, Malayalam is very flowery, could be something to do with having 56 letters in its alphabet, and here is a translation of some of the article.....

"The General Manager  of the world famous Information Technology Company ‘Infosys’,  Dr. Simon Towers and his family visited the Koduvely Sanjo CMI School & their visit sent the students into raptures.

They were received in the traditional method by offering of flowers on their arrival in the class. With exemplary humility and exhilarating speeches Dr Towers won over the hearts of the students and the faculty.

When he met the students of the school, most of whom with hopes of a future in the Information Technology field,  his eyes lit up with great hope. When the students approached Dr Tower with their queries, the  answers were  like a new rainbow of wisdom for the students. He urged them to treasure their dreams, make use of all opportunities and there was no short cut to hard work.

When asked about the Malayalis working in Infosys, he replied that they were smart and hardworking. If they could learn better  English and be more self confident, there is nothing that can stop them from reaching the pinnacle of success"


  1. We are so going to have to go!

  2. Great blog and I'm sure you noticed that the word Malayalam is a palindrome.