The Gandhian Who runs a Homestay and Plantation and promotes Eco Tourism in Wayanad

31st March 2014

The Azure sky above and the colorful attire of Kerala Express Bloggers are the only challengers to the monopoly of green during our plantation visit in Wayanad. We are  touring  a plantation that grows spices like Pepper, Areca nut, coffee, and fruits like coconut, banana and many more. The plants around me are showing stress due to a rain-less month, and at 34 degree Celsius, Wayanad is making a new high compared to the average of  30 degrees. We cross paddy fields that soon bow out to a serpentine incline leading to the Pranavam Home stay, perched on top the plantation, offering a panoramic view of surroundings. We are greeted by Mrs. Rama and Mr. Ravindran with smiles that are warmer than the sun shining right above my head.

Only the colorful attire of bloggers broke the monopoly of green in Wayanad Kerala

The fresh sweet coconut that till a few minutes ago was looking down on us from its high and mighty position in the canopy of coconut tree is a welcome relief.  A Bulbul is looking at us suspiciously, intermittently lodging a protest by flying from one tree to another, trying to warn us about her territory. But to our ears her protest is a song that only the blessed ones get to hear.

 We settle down on the chairs in Veranda and discuss the plans to go for Bamboo rafting in a stream nearby.  I am not very keen to go for rafting and choose to chat with our host Mr. Ravindran And boy am I glad or what, that I chose to spend some time with him.

While other Kerala Blog Express Bloggers  leave for rafting I am invited to  well decorated yet Spartan home. The first thing I notice on entering the house is a painting of Mahatma Gandhi working on his beloved Charkha (spinning wheel), making string to weave clothes.  I wonder at Bapu Gandhi taking the place of prominence in a planters home in Wayanad Kerala.

Gandhian planters and homestay owners: Mrs. Rama and Mr. Ravindran of Pranavam Homestay

Mr. Ravindran can sense my admiration for Bapu Gandhi, and is smiling at my continuous gaze towards Mahatma.  Finally I move my gaze from Bapu and hurl a question to the smiling gentleman.

Sir how come you have a painting of Mahatma Gandhi in your home, it is not very common to see Mahatma Gandhi  in homes today, even in Government offices, his pictures gather dust”,

With this we open our conversation and I go  back to the days of Raj, when the British ruled the Malabar region and, freedom movement was at its peak.

Mr. Ravindran’s father Shri KV Raman Menon (1900-1974), was an eminent Gandhian and one of the key figures in freedom struggle against British Raj in the Ponnani town of Malabar region. Mr. Menon’s contribution to the freedom struggle can be gauged from the fact that he was known as Ponnani Gandhi for his anti Raj stand and following principles of non violent struggle against the colonial power.

Mr. Ravindran inherited the Gandhian principles from his father and continues to live an austere life.  His family does not eat or serves any kind of non vegetarian food, but the vegetarian food served at Pranavam Home stay is the best I have ever had in whole of Kerala. I will be writing a detailed post about the same in next few days.  How about subscribing to desi Traveler by email to get those posts in your email? (With a 100% No Spam Guarantee!) OK enough of self promotion…let us move forward.

The couple is kind enough to agree to pose for a picture, and as they settle on the sofa in the middle of the room, I notice an empty chair on each side of the sofa, probably meant for their daughters when they come home.

We continue to chat and I ask him how long his family has owned the Plantation in Wayanad, and I learn a few more things about Kerala society.

I learn that the plantation is actually owned by his wife and her sister as in Kerala some of the communities like the Nairs follow a matrilineal system of distribution of wealth.

Post retiring as a top executive from a tyre company,  he moved to his wife’s family plantation and decided to build a small home stay to keep busy. I guess a 100+ acre plantation is just not big enough to keep an enterprising retired man like Mr. Ravindran and his wife Rama on toes.  When they started the Pranavam Homestay, tourism was in its nascent stage in Wayanad. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise and conscious efforts were made to make tourism as sustainable as possible in Wayanad, with minimum damage to the local ecology that supports the last few surviving patches of rainforest in India.  Mr. Ravindran also actively participated in founding Wayanad Tourism Organization, a very well-organized and structured liaison group of, homestay, hotels and resort owners in Wayanad district with the sole aim to promote sustainable tourism in Wayanad district. Mr. Ravindran serves as General Secretary of the WTO, and is one of the key driving forces to help develop sustainable tourism in Wayanad.

As the husband and wife duo slowly worked towards developing their homestay,  their two daughters got married and moved to foreign lands, one of them works for UN and another for a large commodities company in Middle East.  So the empty nesters shower their love on the guests who stay with them, making friends for life..  Their first guest was a Canadian lady called Nancy, and after that they have played host to countless travelers. A lot of them  continue to write not just mails but also send letters and greeting cards to the wonderful couple.   The house can pass for a library, with books on topics on various subjects that the guests are welcome to read.

Nancy the first guest at Pranavam Home Stay

As we continue to chat, the group that went for rafting comes back and its lunch time for some home cooked Kerala Sadya.





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