Archives for category: Kerala culture

Rebecca Vest:

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Becky, Arun, Lauren, on Mike send their greetings to all

Becky, Arun, Lauren, and Mike send their greetings to all

A perfect time and place for this

A perfect time and place for this

Counting the hair-pin turns is the way that you can measure how high up you’re venturing into the mountains of Kerala, the Western Ghats, as we drove from  Trivandrum to Kallar and then beyond. After each turn we all started to move a little farther away from the windows as we exposed the majestic beauty of the tall mountain we were scaling. Bellies full of Vada (gram flour doughnuts), a savory snack and Chai tea (tea with milk). It was an amazing afternoon, we finally made it to the top where we were all just in awe, quickly followed by all of us settling and quieting down. The air was a change from the heat we’d all been experiencing to a slight cool breeze. The cool air, rolling hills, and sky brought a feeling of calm to everyone there. The trip had been very fast-paced, filled with so many different sites, adventures, sounds, people, music, food, and our group that valiantly persevered through the indulgence of India and Indians. The side trip up to Ponmudi brought tranquility, reflection, and a sense of being ‘on top’ of India that was literally and figuratively a pinnacle of our trip.

Arun Zacharaiah:

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Dear David, Raluca, ,Daavid, Tom, Christine, Zoila, Stephanie, Nate, Mike,Jeremy, Tiege, Lauren, April, Kristin, Elora, Johnleia, and Becky, I thank Almighty for providing this wonderful experience in life. I would like to summarize my experience quoting the words of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, on being impressed by the beauty of Kashmir dal lake: “if there is heaven on earth this is it.” The Mughal monarch Akbar’s (grand-father of Jehangir) concept of din ilahi (then “world religion” though maybe today better defined as “world citizenship”) lingers in my mind. I am bit melancholic and a bit down with your leaving. But that is life. That’s the unifying power of soul force/ goodness in mankind. I hope all of the world would be a place like this. Give everyone a fair share of the world’s resources, help him/her and the society understand oneself and each other. Let our knowledge and wisdom gained though education and experience help us try to work for a better world. Let each one try to accept differences and live happily helping one another. Let’s see the boundaries of restrictions blown away by the winds of love and compassion. You are a promising group of blooming anthropologists. Very fair, forthright, and honest. Nurtured right, the stars will certainly shine bright for you all.

Stephanie Bahramian: My name is Stephanie Bahramian. I am an M.S. student in geography where my main interests lie in planning and sustainability. I am also learning GIS as I like to map data, and I will likely do my masters project in GIS and planning. I am also very much concerned with international issues, probably more so than domestic. As the developing world seeks to attain the standards of living of those of the West, they risk developing in such a way that can compromise and deplete their own resources. Therefore, sustainable development is my primary area of study. My reason for coming on this trip to India was quite simply that I love India. I had also failed to get to this part of Kerala on my previous two trips to the state, and I found the itinerary very well designed.

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I have noticed a shift in recent years of those living in several western countries seeking to know more about more traditional medicines such as Chinese, Ayurveda, herbal, homeopathy etc.  At the same time I was suspecting a reverse move from those in the developing world embracing more heartily allopathy than their own traditional medicines.

This past summer, I had several medicine students from China and Taiwan, and they indeed confirmed that their studies were almost devoid of Chinese medicine and that their scant knowledge of it depended on their access while growing up, or if their families were regular users of acupuncture, Chinese medicinal treatments and the like.

This trip further convinced me of this shift. Every modern person or professional I  met on our travels in India admitted to preferring using allopathy to seeking tradtional Ayurvedic treatments. The reason everytime, was quite simply that people did not want to wait to feel better, even though they were fully aware that Ayurvedic treatments would give them the most long-term benefits! The practitioners, too, said this was the main reason if not sole as Ayurvedic treatments do not have side effects.

I have been practicing Ayurveda for many years, but access to it in the US is poor, so I decided to deepen my knowledge of it in the two weeks we were travelling. It helped that I was actually sick due mainly to the heavy travelling to India shortly after a tiring semester. I visited several Ayurvedic doctors of varying experience, did three types of treatments and am using numerous herbal treatments from teas to hygiene products to treatments for more chronic ailments.  There are definitely varying degrees of expertise among the practitioners and the types of locales to get treatments and consultations. One young woman had a

Roots and herbs at an Ayurveda shop

Roots and herbs at an Ayurveda shop

little cubby hole attached to just as small of a place where her family sold hundreds of Ayurvedic treatments; she was the doctor of the family. Another slightly larger pharmacy also had a cubby hole where one could get free consultations just like the last place, but this was a chain shop where the young woman there had not long graduated an Ayurvedic college and who considered this a good first job before eventually one day having her own private practice, something that would require her having built a reputation in order to operate well.

The next place I went to was to a private Ayurvedic doctor that I found through one of our contacts during our lectures. She had been practicing many years and received me in her home, gave me a cup of tea and consulted with me for about 45 minutes. She refused to take any money, which was very uncomfortable for me, but I realized that it would have been just as uncomfortable for her had I insisted in handing her some. I also had no clue as to how much to pay anyway. I was pleased that all practitioners had agreed with what was first  “prescribed” and so trusted the additional treatments that were suggested (there was no prescription per se).

As for the distribution of medicines, some came from the Ayurvedic pharmacies and some from raw medicinal shops, which were basically tiny cramped warehouses of dried herbs and fruits and barks and heaven knows what else. These places were less abundant and not so easy to find. Everything cost pennies to buy so, clearly accessible to the masses, something that is contrary to here in the US. Anything non-conventional in medicine in this country is either costly and/or not covered by insurances.  Free consultations are also almost unheard of. I loved the way everything was wrapped up in newspaper and natural fiber string (coir?!).

This brings me to my final point, and that is about the Ayurvedic school that I visited. Even guidebooks are now saying that one can no longer visit them. As I

The Kerala Ayurveda College

The Kerala Ayurveda College

was with an Indian student, I was able to have a quick look around and ask some questions. Ayurveda has been an open sharing of knowledge forever, probably since the beginning some 5000 years ago, but in recent times, this knowledge had been used and profited from by Western countries like our own, and the recent trend in patenting components of nature is threatening the very industry. As a result, Indians are now getting suspicious of foreigners and quite rightly so if we have been thieving and claiming ownership of something that was never needed to be owned before.  The school I visited was in the center of town and was government-run with an attached pharmacy for all to get their medicines. I felt a lot of hostility there and decided to go elsewhere for my meds. It was not clear if being sick made the people grouchy or if my being the only foreigner evoked the animosity, so I decided to focus on other things.

The rooftop housed many potted plants with plaques with names in Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, Malayalam, the language of Kerala, and, of course, the botanical name in Latin.  I was not allowed to take a picture so I refrained…We stopped a young man who told us that he was in his first year and in his class of 70 students, there were only 12 men. He said this was typical, which jibed with information I had been getting from numerous sources, that this was predominantly a woman’s profession; it is one that does not generate a large income typically. It can be completed in 5 years, including a 6-month practicum. I asked another gentleman about foreigners studying at the school. He said that everyone must learn Sanskrit and to pass an entrance exam. There are two places reserved for outsiders that one must interview for but one cannot pay directly for. The foreign government must pay for the studies. I suspected there was no bursars office on campus and could safely assume that the US government would NOT pay for me to go to school there.  I removed it from my bucket list. Otherwise one can attend a private Ayurvedic school. Had there been more time, I would have researched these just to complete my preliminary understanding of the field of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is not medicine per se; it is a way of life and encompasses elements such as correct breathing, posture, movements and attitude. One does not need to wait to get sick to take Ayurvedic treatments and ideally should be taking concoctions to help balance the body before it gets sick. We in the West are just beginning to recognize this. What a pity that Indians are turning away from a piece of their very identity that others of us are discovering is a wisdom to be valued and cherised.

Teige Christiano:

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CCSU changed my world. I would have never thought myself ever being able to explore the world the way I have. This university gave me the opportunity to learn Teigein an entirely new way. The two short weeks I spent in Kerala had me thinking it was my home away from home. In each hotel or home stay we stayed at had its own charm and differences. Especially when it came to the bathroom, ice cold bucket rinses made me ever so grateful for the hot showers I have at home. I learn how other people live at home through this. Every meal felt like an adventure. I ate rice and various fish curries with only my right hand, teaching my taste buds to tolerate the spices in Kerala’s food. I learned to expand my pallet and to try new foods. Everything down to even getting accustomed to the impressively different mannerisms and behaviors the people of Kerala have was a hidden opportunity to learn new methods of communicating with people. During my time in Kerala I was able to ride an elephant, body surf in the Arabian Sea, be in a vallam on the Vellayani Lake, spend New Year’s Eve with friends that now feel like family, learn about the development of India and its challenges, and experience life through a different pair of lenses. I would not exchange this experience for anything, so thank you CCSU, Arun, and Dr. Kideckel.

Arun Zacharaiah:  Submitted Ph.D thesis.Post graduate in History and Education. Postgraduate diploma in Journalism and Counselling/Psychology. Numerous publications. Most recent: Chengannur Riot case 1938-   a warfront in India’s nationalist movement  that overcame the tactics  to divide minority and majority communities.Published in Malayalam by National Book House,which is the first publishing house in India founded and owned by writers (its a writers cooperative – under the cooperative ministry of Kerala. Freelance  researcher, coordinator.

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Hey shall we call this Mission “KFC global,” Kerala Finds Connecticut. I’m sure most might find the analogy (only in sound or pun) little distasteful as anthropologists go for preserving tradition and local values, and you guys are against negative impacts of capitalism and neoliberalism. Not West versus other model but rather mutual cooperation in this connected world to make it a better place than we got it.

First day walking in we met the group. I saw Dr. K in his usual cap, a bearded active guy (Nathan), and the Jr K. Then met Dr. Tom Hazuka and Mrs. Hazuka (Christine), April, and met everyone except tired Mike and Jeremy. What followed was ice-breaking and we discussed the schedule, going over each itinerary item, one at a time as many things in a day Dr K says. Made some phone calls, arranged auto rickshaws and left.

Next day met at 7;30 left for Velayani lake protection. On the way there was some slight confusion as I got a phone call from Biju, of the Aquatic Biology dept, saying he thought his talk was the next day. But he came and we had a boat ride. Collected floating coconuts (first natural souvenir). Intellectual discussion was followed up with philanthrophy-helping the little boy with kidney disorder, of the family who greeted us on shore.

Sorry I didn’t follow the whole interactive process (busy rescheduling on the phone owing to last hour cancellation). Next day we hopped on to Thanal zero waste centre and had a lively discussion with Usha and Jayakumar. Students bought recyled goodies sold at their office. In the afternoon they marched like soldiers and ate like commandos. Then we reached Kerala University to listen and discuss with Reghu, the Kerala encyclopedia director, a compendium of knowledge. The KFC’s behaved maturely in front of a God of Knowledge’ who has the power to give you more knowledge if you show patience on return. Then it was Puthen Malika royal museum (housed in an old royal house within the city – wherein royal family didn’t live long due to a bad omen. Dr. K and I drank tea while the group went on a short trip through Chalai, the oldest market in Trivandrum. We helped you catch a bus and there was rain and you guys realized the importance of wiper blades.

Last day of last year and first day of this was also hectic and meticulously planned and executed . Can we call it some kind of “utilitarian tourism”, i.e. visiting the maximum number of places in a minimal amount of time, and also getting the maximum benefit. Striking balance with touristic needs and local cultural needs, with care taken to maintain ethics.

The day began with environment versus development debate. Both speakers were passionate. Elias George, pro-commercial port lobbyist and Vizhinjam harbor protection group drawn from independent fisherman federation of Kerala; profit versus basic existence. According to Elias George, it was a question of how the new port would help society and people to realize their essential needs or, without the port, the hand-to-mouth existence of many would remain. But the fisherfolk would be directly impacted by the Vizhinjam International Port.  Fisher folk were happy with what they have and can not depend on promises of government, which has not even delivered pure drinking water to all fisher folk on seaside even after 60 years after independence. Both sides presented their arguments. We voted on the argument and in the end the concern for maintaining the cultural conditions of the fishermenthe prevailed over well prepared presentation in international language with real statistics. The independents who abstained from voting said if the fisherfolk had more scientific data, they would have voted for them. Returning from Vizhniam port we had lunch at Ammachiveedu (grandmas house) Thampurans (the  Royal), the second part of the name showing respect to royalty, yet an irony considering the facilities available were housed in a tin roofed shack. Don’t know how many have studied it from a gender empowerment perspective. The owner and “CEO” of the hotel who yells out expletives, is a widow who lost everything. Yet she is running the single room, one fifty square foot restaurant that is also her home at night. Then we had an elephant ride. Bit scary at times. But man conquered the nature / beast or man conquered his fear.

After… a new year party sponsored by Dr K  (kudos to your generosity), Next day shifted to city and had a ciy tour with things explained by Malayinkeezh, a retired ciy editor of leading Malayalam daily. Evening spent at Thozhuvankod devi temple. On the second of Jan the group visited Kerala university and interacted with faculty and students . The discussion of teaching versus lecture method in Kerala university was good. Lauren hit nail on the head with question on Socratic method vs Critical Thinking approach in education.

Dr. K, your ability at initiating discussion was, as usual,electric. But beware not to get small shocks, if you’re not prepared. I feel some Kerala students didn’t expect it.  But as you can see, there are some brave hearts (planted and spontaneous) everywhere (you saw that in the questions from Kerala students. Some would like to work in USA and the other extreme my family and immediate society would find it stressful / disapprove of a girl studying in Delhi or abroad India. Cultural aspects and Johnleia Lambert your observation at this point set up greater meaning that one could relate to. As expected, or was it surprising, to have convergence on issues or financial difference in purchasing power of people in two nations, difference in value systems and accepting it. Hazuka brought it up the homogenization of USA and how masses were misled on the wars. Jeremy, Kristen Frenis talked about being broke as students.

Thoughts on the group: 1) Elora stylish expressive dancing through the corridors of US power. Fastest on and off the elephant; 2) Stephanie-sensitive mind has lots of challenging questions. Queen’s English;  3) Zoila – stong willed. The elephant ride revealed it ; you are child like. 4) Lauren–culturally sensible. Sticks to the command. Very responsible. Always on time; 5) April – soft spoken. Your name shows your blooming nature. Good for anyone near you. Never knew you work full time. Your answers to Dr. K at interaction with Kerala university students were short, quick, and sensible; 6) Kristin- in search of things with a difference. Good communicator.  Good at negotiating Indian roads. Only one who remembered to carry bananas for the elephant; 7) Christine- multi talented. Down to earth. Great entertainer, she knows Indian dance. Adaptive. First to give compliments; 8) Johnleia-strong words flowing to Caribbean music. Cool customer. She is also a rugby player. Went through lots of cultural transformations in her life.  9) Becky – sprightly pecking. At times, she fires unexpected, insightful questions. 10) Raluca – the hardcore academic, excellent manager. The family dance with David and Daavid was very graceful; 11) Daavid – strong-willed little guy. Your smile is electric.  Cool that you shared your biscuits with the elephant. You will be strong like an elephant of the ipad generation; 12) Nathan – Dr K in-making. Not many would believe that you are taekwondo 4th degree black belt. Bundle of energy. Very friendly and funny. He loves freedom in being single. Great style, uppa gangnam style. Wants to bridge gaps and misunderstandings  between cultures -east and west. 13) Teige – baby of the group. Quite courageous to try the curry in grandma’s hotel. Slow to start. But then you get going when the going gets tough. You got some smart dance moves. Would like some partner. 14) Jeremy – big guy with equally big heart. I feel like a rugby ball when I’m in front of you.  Quite a “history” guy. Loves talking history.  You speak slow and clear makes it easier for the listener. Asking short direct statements or questions; 15) Mike – conversant in many things. There’s an entrepreneur in you. Wise like your second name. Tells he is fortunate to get the last minute entry in the group to India. Talks on anything can make you feel at home. 16) Tom Hazuka – fiction writer , reserved. scholarly, patient, professor. And Christine helped you on to the dance floor  and you danced well.  Good at getting details especially on camera; 17) David Kideckel – Dr K your students call you. An eternal student . Young-at heart, Very active. A heart of gold . You got to mine / go deep to get  it though. Forgives fast. Master organiser and task-master. I don’t know how he can memorize and retrieve past knowledge the way he does. Interesting, his brain wiring. Things just flash.

While at the discussion in Kerala university got a phone from the CEO of a small company with fewer than 20 employees to hear he is admitted in hospital. So had to contact other people. But we got something better.   Then we visited Technopark, the Silicon Valley of Kerala and had a fruitful discussion with Tata representative. Discussed international trade, labour laws, economic crisis competition, recruitment etc. At the Technopark foodcourt some submerged themselves in Subway and had a taste of home before heading back home – hotel. On the 3rd Jan, four groups and four topic-based site visits with cars. While in kovalam we had site visits on tuk tuks / autorickshaws, the 3 wheel wonders. Moved into the city and became contemporary in travel. Then in the evening we had a taste of traditional Kerala in the form of Theyyam. The perfomer, who turns god and gives blessings and foretells as well as observes, made both the foreign and indigenous in attendance to feel blessed.

Finally, Gopa Kumar’s critical look at Kerala model of development and migratio patterns of Kerala people. Then to politics, economics, society, development issues; howmigration stopped in India after Bangladesh. History: More than 655 independent kingdoms, federal linguistic nation with 22 languages constitutionally recognised, 159 sub dialects, 28 states and 6 union territories. India started with 16# states. 1:6j percent land area Kerala accommodates 4 percent population of India (34 million). How language unites Kerala. and that social development in Kerala is ahead of other states because of “the four Ms”: Monarchs, Missionaries, Movements, Marxism, and now Migration.

David Kideckel:

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Theyyam. None of the students have taken it upon themselves to blog about Theyyam, the ritual that we saw at the campus of Kerala University on the evening of Thursday, Jan 3. Perhaps they feel the experience indescribable and I can understand that.  Still I wanted to go on a bit about Theyyam and our role in it. Shaji Varkey in a message to us describes the ritual that we will see, Puthiya Bhagavathy Theyyam. This is a ritual found mainly in North Malabar and is performed in temples, sacred groves, and households. It is much less commercialized than the famous Kerala dance form, Kathakali. Theyyam artists mostly belong to the subaltern classes. A performing Theyyam becomes god incarnate and therefore carries much respect, even though off stage, he is poor and socially ostracized. Theyyam requires thorough training from childhood in use of percussion instruments, makeup, mask design, dance, recital of songs and art work on young palmshoots.

The meaning of the ritual: The female Theyyam, Puthiya Bhagavathy was born from the third eye of Lord Siva. Her mission was to heal the Devas (those who live in heaven) when they were afflicted with small pox. Later she was sent to earth to heal human beings and her six brothers. The brothers were killed by Asuras (the evil gods). Puthiya Bhagavathy, in a fit of rage, kills the Asuras and sets fire to their fort.  Bhagavathy’s power multiplies when she kills a Brahmana and drinks his blood. She was requested to perform a homa (ritual sacrifice) at Moolacherry family. When she found that the mantras (ritual chants) that the family head (Name-Moolacherry Kurup) recited were faulty, she threw his son-in-law into the raging fire. Repenting his fault, Kurup instituted a temple for the Bhagavathy.

The Experience of Theyyam: Everyone was tired today at the University campus. Today was the first day of theme group work so the morning was very busy.

Taking a break and waiting for Theyyam

Taking a break and waiting for Theyyam

Nate, April, and Teige even returned direct to the U from their group and waited a few hours for the rest of us. Meanwhile, I herded everyone else to the Thampanoor bus stand and got them on a public bus (an experience in itself) out to Kariavattom. Then we heard a nuanced lecture from sociologist, Meena Pillai, on Kerala gender, before it was off to Theyyam.

With funds provided specifically by the CCSU Anthropology department, our group had commissioned the performance of this Theyyam and a troupe of five Theyyam artists and ther attendants had travelled some 400 km from Kannur in north Kerala to perform. By the time we arrived at 3:30 at the area in front of the Men Researcher’s Hostel, we were late to see the first phase of the ritual, begun an hour previous.  The Theyyam group consisted of six or seven men. When we got there, they were busy making a decorative skirt for the god from fresh palm leaves and many other decorations for the coming ritual. The breast -plate that would help transfigure the dancer into the female god caused a bit of comment, but mainly our people were looking dragged out. When I told them that the ritual would last until 8 or 9 in the evening, there was almost an audible groan. I foreclosed a rebellion by giving them the option to take some time off tomorrow, instead of leaving early tonight. So people agreed and then milled around…some visited the hostel to see how the young researchers lived while a bunch of folks took off with a KU student and Arun Zacharaiah to find some food in a neighborhood near the campus.

The god's raiments are made anew

The god’s raiments are made anew

It was at this time that the artists took the materials they had been working on to behind the neighboring building near the offices of the International Center for Kerala Studies. It was here that intense preparation of them would commence and the actual ritual performed. Our students and many Malayali students, university staff, and others (even police), also began to show up to observe the quickening preparations. Arun showed up with a bunch of food…oranges, bananas of a few different varieties including my favorite red banana, kapopazham. There was lots of water to drink as well.

We sat on the steps eating while members of the Theyyam group continued to prepare the ritual materials. Meanwhile a number of large bats slowly and ominously crossed the sky above us. Soon particular attention began to be focused on the making-up and dressing of the god-to-be. He lay on stage while an attendant applied layers of face make-up. The intricate patterns of whorls and dots and lines created an angry visage. As more and different layers and items began to be added on the man-god,

The god begins to emerge

The god begins to emerge

people began to crowd around him as if drawn by magnetism and devotion. The costuming was so elaborate and ritualized, as each item like ankle bells and rice grains on the god’s arms, was added one after the other. I began to feel a bit uncertain, though, when around the middle of the god a square armature was constructed of the four torches that had been soaking in a bucket of coconut oil. They were going to light these torches, though the god would be protected by the freshness of the palm shoot skirt that was not likely to catch fire, or so I thought.

As the sky was darkening, seemingly out of nowhere appeared three drummers and began the intense cadence of the chenda drums that were to begin the ritual

Chenda drummers beat out a furious rhythm

Chenda drummers beat out a furious rhythm

and then accompany the god’s dance. The drumming was fiercer than I had ever heard previously the many times I heard chenda performed, but after drumming for about ten minutes straight came to an abrupt stop. Silence and darkness overtook all of us, now waiting quietly in anticipation of the god and her. Little by little new items were added to the god’s appearance and then at last the elaborate headdress was attached and the torches surrounding the god’s body were lit as were the candles on top of the headdress, and the drumming began again.

The god aflame

Bhaghavathy in her splendor

Now, the god began her dance, alternately jumping and spinning to the sounds of drums and cymbals. The bells on her ankles kept furious time as Baghavathy swirled and traced the margins of the performance area with her footsteps. The fire on the torches and the drumming and the movement of the god were overwhelming. I remember crying out in emotion until someone tapped me on the shoulder to remind me of the decorum demanded of this sacred event. The torch fires ate away at the grass skirt of the god so a retainer continually walked near the dancing god to sprinkle water on its arms and on the grass skirt to keep down the flames. The dancing and drumming went on without stopping for close to half an hour. All of the fifty or so of us observing I think, were overcome with awe. Then as the torches died out one by one, the transfigured god ceased her dance and began to wish blessings on those of us who had witnessed her transformation. People lined up to deposit a few rupees in the god’s hand, who then shouted out more formulaic blessings on us and our houses. Most of the CCSU group came to be personally blessed by the transfigured god, and the success of our trip was further assured by the power of the transfigured deity.

As the ceremony ended Shaji Varkey said a few words of thanks to the Theyyam group for their activities on our behalf and also thanked CCSU for sponsoring the event. It turns out that this was the first time ever that Theyyam had been held at the Kariavattom campus, so that made us particularly proud. With the performance over, we walked a back path on campus to the front gate, crossed the still-busy street and waited together with Shaji and Arun for the bus to Trivandrum. We were fortunate to catch a “Fast Passenger” that had empty seats for most of us, and we travelled largely in silence back to the Thampanoor bus stand. None of us who witnessed this incredible ceremony are likely to be the same again.

Johnleia Lambert: My name is Johnleia Lambert, a senior finishing my undergraduate degree in Anthropology with a Biology minor at Central Connecticut State University. Because I have a special interest in Public Health, I came to Kerala India to see the many challenges facing a developing country particularly health related issues.

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Today the Public Health group went to Connemara Market located in Thiruvananthapuram  at the Palayam junction. This diverse market is filled with an array of produce, poultry, livestock, toiletries, clothing, spices and many more odd necessities. Walking into the market, we were first bombarded with fruits, vegetables and a few vendors selling fried eateries. As we made our way through the market we found the slaughter houses where animal flesh was hanging by rope. In one corner there were cages of chickens being sorted into smaller units. On the other side men were hacking away making portion sizes to sell. Leaving the butchery, we walked into the fish market where women were selling the catches of the day. Zoila bought fresh King fish with the intent to make ceviche for dinner.

I was most impressed by the assortment of fruit. An elder gentleman selling produce explained to us that there were eight different bananas sold at that market alone. Aside from the bananas, we were able to taste jackfruit, another sweet fruit that resembled an artichoke and mango. The shopkeepers were so receptive to our presence and eagerly sliced open fruits for us to try. Even when we tried to pay for the samples, they reluctantly returned our rupees saying payment was unnecessary.

One women selling a few items including mango and jackfruit seeds took a liking to me. She held my hand tight forever smiling. She proudly showed her tattoos inked on both forearms. Aashanna our student guide, was quick to respond that tattoos are restricted forbidden but noted that the woman’s tattoos were home ridden hence the green ink. She went on to further translate that the woman had those tattoos over 40 years. It amazes me that a woman sitting in the scorching sun day on in could have such charisma and poise and find joy in anything including a complete stranger like myself. I’ve been continuously astonished by the humanity of the Kerala people; a culture that prides itself on hospitality. They ensure the comfort of their guest, even with something so little as a smile.