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Delineating Kerala, in Dutch

S. Anil Radhakrishnan
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Kerala has been a window to the world, says Ad van Schaik.
Kerala has been a window to the world, says Ad van Schaik.

A Dutch travel writer who got fascinated with the beauty, rich history, and culture of God’s Own Country has made it a point to arrive here every year since his first visit over two decades ago. But, Ad van Schaik is on a mission this year — to give finishing touches to his book on Kerala.

“It will be like a dictionary of A to Z on Kerala with lot of emphasis on local traditions and history. The attempt of the book in Dutch language will promote the destination that is still not known much in the Netherlands. It will also be the first book in Dutch language on Kerala,” Mr. Schaik, who was in the city told The Hindu .

The book comes close to the one written by him on Sri Lanka titled ‘Sri Lanka Een dictionnaire amoureux’ in Dutch. It had helped promote the island nation as a tourist destination and is used by travellers, guides, and tour operators.

The book on Kerala will be lively and the first chapter will be on Kappad beach, says the travel writer who hails from Utrecht in the Central Netherlands. The book deals with Ayurveda, Kathakali, and other art forms of the State. Tradition is the biggest attraction to me. Recalling the opposition and protests to staging Kathakali in the hotels for tourists, Mr. Schaik says it has shown what tourism can do for culture.

Although not accessible to foreigners, Mr. Schaik says Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple will be featured in the book since it had hit the headlines following the discovery of treasures. He recalls with pride the audience with Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore.

Over the years, he has been painstakingly collecting information on the history and heritage of the State. Mr. Schaik says he is fascinated with Muziris as the city from where he comes has also been founded by Romans.

“Dutch legacy is visible in the state and still preserved after centuries, he says on Kochi and its Dutch connections. Hortus Malabaricus, the first treatise on medicinal plants in Kerala, compiled by Hendrik Van Rheede and its original copy written in Latin is preserved at the Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Malayali is the most cosmopolitan Indian and Kerala is an open society. It has been a window to the world. Malayalees had been outgoing and their presence is felt in the IT sector and as paramedics in the Netherlands, notes Mr. Schaik who contributes to the Archaeological Magazine published from the Netherlands and Belgium; the Dutch daily, The Telegraph; and travel magazine Asia .

The writer, who has travelled through the length and breadth of the State since 1987, says the tourism industry has grown rapidly. “Tourism is a big business now in Kerala and is creating job opportunities. With the economy opening up, the competition is visible and the quality of products has improved,” he says.

Heritage buildings and other landmark structures have to be preserved. The good thing is that the beaches are still unspoilt and backwaters charming. “The coastline is fantastic. Kerala is as big as Holland. Backwaters in the State are like tropical Holland. One-third of Holland is backwaters,” he says. Kerala should try to learn from the mistakes of other countries like Thailand. Development has started ruining Sri Lanka. The authorities and the stake-holders should be cautious on the development initiatives in the tourist destinations of the State in the coming days, he adds.

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