Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto, renowned Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, and ‘Israeli writer of the year' Savyon Liebrecht are the latest additions to the growing fan list of ‘God's Own Country.'
“I felt at home in Kerala. I would like to return,” says Fatima Bhutto, the granddaughter of the former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who visited the State for the first time earlier this month for a literary festival in the State capital.
“The people were so warm and hospitable. The landscape is beautiful and I wish I could have seen much more of it,” says Ms. Bhutto, who considers Kerala as a wholesome destination due to its natural beauty, literacy, and history. “The incredible rate of literacy in Kerala is known around the world and I knew Kerala was a place of literature, of knowledge, and of great history,” Ms. Bhutto said in a message on returning to Karachi after a four-day stay here.
Ms. Bhutto says she would recommend Kerala to her countrymen and “certainly to those I know”. “I was asked a lot about Kerala when I returned to Karachi — it is not a place many Pakistanis visit and so they were very curious. When I told them that Kerala was a hospitable place, that the people there were very open and very gracious to visitors, especially to their neighbours, they were very impressed.”
There is a kindness amongst strangers that one feels in Kerala instantly. “People were very helpful, very curious, and very willing to cross the boundaries we have had imposed upon us for so long in order to make new connections and create new understandings”, she adds.
Benazir Bhutto's niece, who sat by the beach at the famed beach resort of Kovalam with a book, says it felt like a beautiful, idyllic spot. “Kerala is a beautiful spot on earth and its people are open to people from countries far and wide. What really makes Kerala a tourist destination are its people though; they are the reason I would like to return,” she adds.
Ms. Bhutto, who is the author of ‘Songs of Blood and Sword', a searing document of the turbulence that had ripped her family apart, recalls meeting “some fantastic children” from Trivandrum International School, at the venue. “They had not met a Pakistani before and told me after my talk that they wanted to learn more about South Asia and create peace groups for young people across the subcontinent — Bangladesh, Pakistan and India — so that the youth could connect with one another freely”.
For award-winning Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, it was a surprise to see “how green Kerala is, how rich with water and how beautiful are the beaches”. “I heard about Kerala's beauty from many people. I wanted to visit it. I want very much to visit it again,” says Mr. Lerner, who also visited Kerala for the first time. Mr. Lerner, one of Israel's best known writers, is looking forward to collaborating with artistes here. “I don't know in what form it will happen, but I am sure it will.”
One of the best-known authors of Israel, Savyon rues that her stay in Kerala was too short to catch the wholesome beauty of the land, and definitely wants to come back to savour it better.
“It was my first tour to India. Kerala, because of its history, sounded especially interesting. The stay was wonderful as it was paradise place (Kovalam) we were staying at. However, I can't say that I was exposed to the virtues of Kerala fully. I will have to come back,” she adds.