A well-planned trip is not only blissful but lingers fresh in the memory for a long time. One obviously would love a hassle-free holiday, as it is meant for rest and enjoyment and above all to escape from the daily ordeal of life. If on a holiday too, one finds oneself running from pillar to post and making last-minute arrangements, one would love to forget the holiday and the horrifying memories associated with it. Kerala is a tough state, in terms of temperament and terrain. Before venturing on a sojourn to Kerala, one needs to follow some simple guidelines to make the stay a pleasant one. Follow the tips in earnest and put your best foot forth and come to Kerala with a desire, and Kerala promises that you will leave the land with an ardent wish to come back again.
Mind Your Language: In communicating verbal instructions, it is vital that you not only insist on the recipient repeating them but also see from his face that he actually understands the meaning of the words. Keralites ears are more attuned to the slurred vowels of English than to the nasal’s drawl of an American.
Permission for Photography: To avoid causing neurosis when you photograph railway property it is advisable to take permission (if you have not done so at home) from Indian Railways headquarters in New Delhi. Rail Bhawan looks very formidable but the entry procedure is remarkably simple. You sign the visitor’s book at the reception and ask to see the Public Relations Officer.
Beware: Two unpleasant brutalities need to be summoned up to make it clear that you are not a soft touch. Never respond to the genial ‘hello’ of a conman and never catch the eye of professional beggar.
Bargaining: Haggling is an exhausting exercise for the greenhorn to Kerala, a delectable sport for the shopkeeper who stands to make a huge killing. Remember that the first sale of the day is considered religiously auspicious, so the chances of being ripped off are somewhat less. The rule for buyers is to start at less than half of the announced price and then work towards a settlement at a price neither party considers unreasonable. Short-term visitors who lack the sporting instinct will find it much easier to stick to government emporia where the prices are fixed.
MIND THE NOISE: Loudspeakers are a status symbol in Kerala and what seems like the blare of a screeching siren may only be a devotional song sung by a national legend. Film songs are basic to Kerala life and their influence is more pervasive than pop. Make a practice of asking people the words and you will discover the words and you will discover an innocent world of romance and poetry totally at variance with the level of noise.
BEWARE OF DOGS: Give all dogs that cross your path a wide berth. Only make friends if you have to. If this sounds mean, remember the alternative may be two weeks of painful injections in a hospital that seems more frightening than the dog.
COMPLAINTS: Always register a suggestion or complaint. In Kerala, the complaint book is available everywhere and people do respond to suggestions. Avoid the unfortunate habit of only criticizing. Sometimes take the trouble to write to the editor of a newspaper praising Kerala. You will be surprised how many other people share your feelings. Practical hints should be penned to the publishers of guidebooks. Share travel experience and you can pick up valuable hints.
SAVE BILLS, TICKETS, RECEIPTS, ETC.: If you save all the bills, tickets, receipts and miscellaneous vouchers accumulated on a tour, these will in later years bring back more vividly the memories you will cherish. Keep an envelope aside for this travel flotsam and consider nothing too menial for inclusion. If you want to be really efficient, then date the additions as they swell your collection. A lot of lingering pleasure can be found by this simple discipline of not throwing away your travel trash.