Cinnamon Coast: Towards a Better Tomorrow, a Brighter Future

Lastword

My earliest recollection of Malabar as a destination dates back to July-August, 1964 when I had an occasion to spend a few weeks at Dharmadom, a village soaked in greenery in Kerala’s Kannur district. The renowned educational institution, Brennen College of Thalasserry, was actually situated at Dharmadom, a place today even more famous as the State legislative constituency that elected Pinarayi Vijayan, the present Chief Minister of the State.

My place of stay at Dharmadom was close to the Lakshadweep Sea, from where a tiny island, sporting an array of coconut trees and lush green vegetation was clearly visible. During high tides, the sea would caress the edges of the island, while during low tide it was possible to wade through knee-deep water to reach the island, uninhabited by humans, yet full of life, with birds, squirrels, frogs, reptiles, rodents and butterflies, all in peaceful co-existence.

Today, this circular patch of land symbolises the immense possibilities for tourism and economic development in Malabar. During the past quarter century plus of my life as a travel writer, I have had occasion to visit almost all landmarks in Kasargod, Kannur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad, the six revenue districts that constitute Malabar, a region that forms part of the history and folklore of the world of seafarers, as country after country in Europe and Arabia came calling in search of the heady spices cultivated and traded here. They affectionately christened the region as the ‘Cinnamon Coast.’

Even today, many in the West refer to Kerala as Malabar, with historic volumes such as Hortus Malabaricus and Logan’s Malabar Manual keeping the name alive and fresh in the minds of succeeding generations.

My first visit to Bakel Fort in 1990 was courtesy KTDC. The Fort was then in a dilapidated state. Again in 2006, during a visit to Bakel, while staying at the Neeleswer Hermitage, an ayurvedic resort, it was clear that developmental initiatives in Malabar, till then neglected and discriminated against, were picking up and gaining steam. Bakel’s glow was evidence of the change.

The two world-class beaches of Muzhappilangad and Payyambalam in Kannur, and Kappad, the one in Kozhikode, began attracting visitors through the 1990s and 2000s. In Palakkad, long before tourism became a passion in Kerala, the Malampuzha dam with its gigantic ‘yakshi’ statue, the ropeway and the Malampuzha House of KTDC were major weekend attractions for domestic visitors. The Angelo Fort in Kannur and the Tippu Fort in Palakkad exuded charm and curiosity for them. Malappuram, for eons a synonym for underdevelopment, is today the most advanced of the Malabar districts. It was in Malappuram that the pilot project Akshaya, the e-literacy campaign, was launched. If Kerala presently is hailed as the e-State of India, it is mainly thanks to Malappuram, which is also home to the iconic, century-plus-old Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, the last resort for those seeking ayurvedic healthcare of the South Indian genre.

Wayanad with its forests, waterfalls, lakes, hills and valleys, wildlife, herbal heritage, and the never-say-die generations of farmers and planters is the ultimate destination for the seekers of the kind of peace and tranquility only Mother Nature can provide. Those six districts, over the past one decade, have grown beyond tourism, into a hub of cyber startups and industrial incubators which hand-hold  and lead a generation of confident young women and men, reposing deep faith in the emergence of Malabar, towards a better tomorrow, a brighter future.