Until five minutes ago, I was writing my column – Inside Story for the Metro Plus on Kumbalangi – a small hamlet on the outskirts of Cochin. I had just written about 100 words when I was faced with a dilemma. Do I paint my views on Kumbalangi the way I see it or do I just write about it objectively as a destination to be experienced ? The dilemma is rather complex because the question arises what or where is Kumbalangi
At one level, Kumbalangi is a beautiful village on the outskirts of Cochin. But on a different level, it is a product packaged by the Incredible India-UNDP project to promote it as an Model Tourism Village for tourists..now what does that mean ? Nothing ,according to me – its just marketing jargon. But then in kerala, everything seems to be a product like this one and we are all consumers – so even simplicity and rustic beauty is packaged and sold to you as an experience..they tell you to walk in the fields and experience village life , like you didnt know it before… You are also told that you can go fishing or watch a small scale coir unit or see crabs being caught in local pools..but they dont tell you that you have to pay a price for all of them. I do not have a problem with that, but I do get a bit worried when locals say they have a gag on their mouths as they cannot just share information about crabs or birds to any tourist who just comes visiting.
It is not really a model village where you can see these happenning around you..they are ” arranged” for you if you stay in one of those homestays, but you need to give them adequate notice and then you get to ” experience” Kerala’s rustic beauty…Even the locals who are very pleasant will ask you for money if you want to take a photograph of them or the orchids in their garden…Nothing wrong with this, because ” model tourism village “means the locals earn from tourists and you need to pay them for giving you this experience..
I am all for rustic tourism and I would like to go all out and promote sustainable rustic tourism . Its great to go fishing, learn about local culture and understand the nuances of farming and I am even willing to pay a small price for it,but I have a problem if it becomes a tourist trap. Having said all that, Kumbalangi lives up to the promise of Gods own country, and unlike rest of urban kerala which is spoiled by man, this lives up to its marketing promise as well. So now, you have me in this dilemma..what do you want me to say ?