Sustainable tourism is all in the mind

What happens in Kerala doesn’t stay in Kerala! Long, long, long after the poets have disappeared, their songs still whisper through the streets. The same is true for memories of Purity.

Sustainable tourism is all in the mind

What happens in Kerala doesn’t stay in Kerala! Long, long, long after the poets have disappeared, their songs still whisper through the streets. The same is true for memories of Purity.

By virtue of a seemingly random neuronal connection, once back home, a violet light here summons visions of a dawn landscape there. It is no longer a siren song to travel: The journey is taking place within us. The warble of a bird, once familiar, now evokes other songs, heard in another place. A smell of curry leaves catching our nostrils on the street brings back thoughts of the small bush that gives India its flavor – and suddenly the taste buds are electrified.

These waves of memory trigger a feeling of longing, or cause nostalgia to wash over us, or lead to an unbidden spell of daydreaming. What happens in Kerala doesn’t stay in Kerala! Long, long, long after the poets have disappeared, their songs still whisper through the streets. The same is true for memories of Purity.

Before establishing this hotel on the shores of Lake Vembanad, Joerg and Txuku asked themselves a profound question: Of just how many hotels do we have distinctive memories? For this sophisticated couple that had already lived the equivalent of several lives and frequented many of this vast world’s luxury accommodations, one room-of-a-lifetime ended up looking much like another room-of-a-lifetime; a green-bottomed pool was really just the same as a blue-bottomed pool; a sencha, however excellent, could not erase the hundreds of excellent sencha tasted before. “We’d also taken as much as we could of stiff, butler-style service.” So what could they do? A gently sloping garden, rooms steeped in collector soul, bathrooms that feel more like spas. And more. “A traveler can buy almost everything, almost everywhere, except for the bonds forged with others, and this bond is what indelibly etches a stay on a guest’s memory.” And the experience of the mild climate found only on southern India’s west coast is unforgettable, as well.

For the curious visitor, a stay at Purity is a series of private conversations. Mary, for instance, knows a tremendous amount about the nineteenth-century bronzes and original contemporary works hanging on the walls. To understand the economy of the Backwaters after the devastating floods of the summer of 2018, travel with a fisherman in his canoe, scull as he instructs, if you wish, and help him pull up his Chinese fishing net. To learn more about the elephant god and Hindu rituals, come nightfall, follow the little candles that lead you to the temple – with a little luck, Sunil will be there, happy to share a moment of faith. For an early morning introduction to yoga in front of the infinity pool that stretches to the horizon, match your breathing cadence to Manju’s and “relax, relaaaaaaax.”

Spontaneous interactions come easily, from culture to culture, in this ambiance of gentle manners, awareness, and an unusual degree of tolerance. And so it remains: Not just the porter’s first “Namaste,” or the powerful hand of the Ayurvedic masseur working from the tips of your hair to your last toe, or the final to-go delicacy – a freshly caught flat fish known as pomfret – cooked up just for you by the chef to save you having to stand in line at the airport, but relationships. Coming out of Sinajudeen’s kitchen, we understand that masala is not merely a mixture of cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, and peppers, but symbolizes a way of living together, in harmony.

“You travel with your suitcase, but not with your network,” says Jeorg, proud to have formed a staff of human conduits that embody and convey an incomparable way of life.

 

Pictures: © Daniel Bernard

 

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