Kerala – Gods own country marketed by man

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 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 ?


  1. Anu 25 November, 2010 at 10:30 Reply

    very interesting…. have never visited one of these ‘model rural tourism villages’.. have heard of the kerala ones, and also some in rajasthan and MP. But from what you say, i guess it wont feel like a real village anymore… if they are so tourist savvy… i really wouldnt mind it if i spent the money in bulk and then could go where i wished and speak to whom i liked without having to think that this is all paid for… looking forward to whatever u end up writing finally!

  2. Upasna 25 November, 2010 at 10:53 Reply

    these villages/ model village life resorts are every single where these days…though for a place I feel over commercialisation kills it, cos it just doesn’t have the same charm!

  3. Lakshmi 25 November, 2010 at 11:27 Reply

    @mridula @Anu – thats the will be like our kind of place until you actually start going deep..very much a real village, Anu and the tourism aspect is not so obvious..but then it slowly starts sinking in..sometimes I think its better if its outright so , cos you know that the rural folks are actually making money out of tourism here …will write a detailed post and will also share the “objective ” article that I wrote

  4. Wildflower 25 November, 2010 at 14:15 Reply

    Its a weird kind of a dilemma isn’t it, on one hand you feel happy that the rural folk is actually able to earn a living through such a project and on another you feel let down by the knowledge that what your experiencing isn’t truly ‘real’.

  5. debarpita mohapatra 25 November, 2010 at 14:28 Reply

    Yeah, I also have faced similar situations during my travel days and I also feel that it is a kind of trap. It seems rather commercial than eco-friendliness. Being an architect and now a student of sustainable architecture I do see things in a different manner. I’ve seen model villages with concrete structure but cladded with traditional look only to attract tourists.
    Eco-villages should be something like an normal village as per it’s existence and without any interference between the regular activities of people and tourism, but there must be a contribution from the tourist side towards that particular society but not individual. At least I can’t pay money to talk to people or I if i need to frame 10 different kinds of flower from gardens of different people….

  6. Asha 25 November, 2010 at 16:22 Reply

    Looks like life has come a full circle. Resorts which look look like our patti’s house are now marketed as home stays and they cost a bomb.

    I think this is one way for the local people to earn money. Sad state of affairs. Now we have such rustic villages created in cities also like ‘ Dhola ri Dhani’- – a typical rajasthani resort where every thing is made up. This is now used by corporates for team outings and school picnics.

  7. Radha 25 November, 2010 at 16:26 Reply

    I agree with you when you say in Kerala, everything is a product and we are all consumers.
    I recall, over 5 years ago, I was in Wayanad and we were given a list of places of interest at the hotel lobby. One of them included a tree that was several hundred years old. There was such a huge description of the tree, we expected something big. In the end, we drove past the same tree several times before we located it, it turned out to be a roadside tree with a tiny board that no human can locate.
    And this is just one example 🙂

  8. Mahon 25 November, 2010 at 18:40 Reply

    A blog very interesting, I liked this open window to another world !
    Very good text and gorgeous photos ! I congratulate you for your excellent work and I’m follower with pleasure :))

    Bye Mahon

  9. shooting star 26 November, 2010 at 22:00 Reply

    well, i can share my experience of model rural tourism…went to Great himalayan natural Park(its an eco reserve in HP)…in the buffer zone villagers have set up a community based travellers’ package(mind you they dont want tourists, only travellers who are interested in hiking)….the guest house is managed by the community, they arrange for hikes and the rest of the things, but….the catch here is exclusivity..only certain number of visitors are allowed each year, which keeps the people uncommercialized and uncomplicated

  10. indicaspecies 28 November, 2010 at 14:17 Reply

    I can understand your dilemma. I’m more of an explore on my own kind….

    However, I think promotion of rustic tourism should not be done excessively. But to a moderate extent, why not if that can satisfy the needs of those interested? Moreover, sustainable rustic tourism can be beneficial to the poor locals and could give them an opportunity to earn their livelihood.

  11. Lakshmi 28 November, 2010 at 16:54 Reply

    @Wildflower – If they really manage to sustain themselves, its good, but this seemed like a show

    @debarpita – thats the issue..cos theres no “model” in this model village for sustainable tourism

    @Niranjan – yup..thats true

    @Asha – you said it..and sometimes people in Hyd are promised a rajasthani experience

    @radha – i can very well relate to that

    @mahon – Thank you

    @SS – Thanks for sharing yr experiece..thats true to a certain extent

    @Philip – all places which have become touristy

    @Vishesh – but in general, its not a great idea

    @PNS – well, as a traveller I like to see many places..sometimes even an amusement park is good fun 🙂

    @Celine – The right kind of rustic tourism which is sustainable..not a show or scam

  12. nkr4068 28 November, 2010 at 20:42 Reply

    New to this blog and interesting one.

    I feel, if in the cities the Zoo’s n Parks are asking for entrée fees, this is quite acceptable too. After all tourists visits places for a one-off experience and it should be okay. I am not so familiar with the idea of Rustic Villages. I am from Kerala and I am aware of some of the aggressive tourism tricks. If i were in that situation, i would rather visit places which are unknown to the world. Not those places marked in the tourist maps, but roam around, and visit real-unknown places.

    Nice article, and I hope you’ve found a way to deal with the Metro Plus article before the deadline.

    A Journey to the Unknown Spaces

  13. Jeevan 4 December, 2010 at 15:26 Reply

    Thanks for being so open mind on this, for us to understand what model tourism means. Whenever I check the metro plus weekend, I read about destinations and home stay and what they say is same and nothing different than common.

  14. Dipika 8 December, 2010 at 11:41 Reply

    Th target group with ventures like these are rarely other Indian folk, i would think. Not every village in india is necessarily equipped enough to sustain and provide a rustic environment if left to its own devices. Tourists visiting from outside of india are often subject to scrutiny, hounded by hawkers, taken advantage of or worse, groped and harassed. For people who want a peaceful, world-class holiday with minimal confrontations, this is a wonderful option. For those who hate the idea, they can always choose to brave it and step outside of the illusion.
    I think as “artificial” as it may seem to us, this is a wonderful idea..sort of like a time capsule that is representative of what we believe a true indian village is.

  15. Rajan 23 December, 2010 at 07:10 Reply

    This is a great piece as it made me sit and think… I suppose as the tourism industry is trying to find niches it can target and has found that there is a certain type of traveler who would be interested in this type of “arranged-reality”. It reminds of the market there is for “Reality Shows” on TV.

    As for me, I may give it a try, but something tells me this is not my style.

  16. sunnyoga 11 January, 2011 at 20:49 Reply

    Hi, I found your comment very interesting.
    My husband and myself are having a place in Attappadi,made with Hutts in a very authentic surounding, named “tranquilandia” what you could call “rustic tourism”, why don’t you come and see for yourself what rustic tourism is all about ??

    You are welcoem anytime
    Till then, keep going safely !

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