A city couple looks to promote Manapad, a small town off Tuticorin, as a heritage as well as a water sports destination

City-based Arun Miranda, who is in the steel industry, and his wife Francina trace their paternal roots to the coastal town of Manapad (made famous in recent times by Mani Ratnam’s Kadal). “After we got married, back in 1995 on the insistence of our parents we decided to visit Manapad,” Arun begins. He hadn’t visited his ancestral town until then. “I instantly fell in love with the place, and we have been visiting it regularly since,” he says.

“Manapad’s a beautiful place with an interesting history. Did you know that Francis Xavier lived here in a cave?” he asks. “Everyone only knows of his work in Goa, but he lived in a cave in Manapad too. There’s even a 400-year-old Portuguese church on the hill. A lot of homes here remind me of Chettinad. Though not as opulent, they have a distinctive character,” he adds, “I think it can be attributed to the fact that a lot of locals used to work in Sri Lanka, and when they returned they built large homes.”

In 2007, several visits later, Arun and Francina decided to buy a property and let it out as a Bed and Breakfast for tourists. The property was built back in 1929. “We spent three years painstakingly restoring it. Now the B&B is open,” Arun says. Francina adds, “A lot of the beautiful homes in Manapad are great to look at from outside, but are withering away inside. So we decided to restore one of them.”

The duo has christened the B&B Villa de Joseph. “All our staff at the property is local. This way they can have some alternative to fishing, which is their only source of income now,” she explains. Visitors who stay at the Villa de Joseph are taken on a tour of the Manapad Palm Leaf Weavers’ Society to encourage local artisans. The couple is also considering introducing more water sports to the area. “We have decided to keep it all non-motorised though to ensure ecological balance.”

Go surfing

Francina says, “I came to know this was the best place for surfing.” So, Villa de Joseph also rents equipment and brings in trainers from Chennai for those who want to learn surfing. “Recently, a group of nine surfers from the U.S. stayed at our property and surfed for several days,” Arun informs. “I have heard from several surfers that these waters are most conducive for kite surfing too,” Francina adds.

“While we initially wanted people to come here and understand our heritage better, this news of surfing has opened up more options,” Arun says. For details, visit www.manapad.in.