Malabar Mail: Celebrating the spirit of the region

‘Land of endosulfan’ wants to change

01/08/2014,A Rainy day at Kasaragod Bekal Fort-photo by Fahad Muneer  

Kasaragod has an image problem.

Think of Kasaragod and chances are that pictures of pathetic children with hairless, bloated heads might pop up in your mind. The district is home to forts, rivers, beaches, various cultures and ‘seven languages’, but it has been frozen in the public mind for around two decades as the ‘land of endosulfan’.

True, babies with congenital malformations are still being born in parts of Kasaragod. Endosulfan is generally viewed as the cause of the tragedy, though some experts are not convinced and call for detailed scientific studies to ascertain the real cause.

But Kasaragod is much more than the endosulfan tragedy. Vincent van Gogh’s quote “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere” suits Kasaragod well. The pristine rivers and backwaters, beaches and the massive and well-preserved fort at Bekal and the region’s culture and cuisine show a different side of the district that is often eclipsed by accounts of pesticides-caused afflictions.

Many languages

This northernmost district of the State is unique in many ways. It has a multi-linguistic culture. Sojourn in the district, and you can come across speakers of Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Marati, Urdu and Beary, besides Malayalam. And, the way Malayalam is spoken (‘Kasrod Malayalam’ in local parlance) in some parts of the district will sound strange to people in other parts of the State. That is natural as Malayalam spoken here is as influenced by, say, Tulu and Kannada, as they are in turn influenced by Malayalam.

The linguistic diversity in the district reflects the diversity in culture and history. Rituals and folk arts Theyyam, Yakshagana, Poorakkali, Kolkali and Mappilappattu showcase the rich and varied cultural heritage of the district. History co-exists with myths and legends in Kasaragod. Efforts are now on to woo tourists to experience these unique features of the district.

Putting on show the untapped tourism potential of Kasaragod might help improve the image problem as it will highlight the sunny side. The Malabar-Malanadu River Cruise Tourism Project linking rivers and backwaters of North Malabar is set to give a boost for tourism development. A cruise in the Valiyapamba backwaters will give you a closer view of the vibrant village life of Kasaragod.

Experiential tourism

“We are promoting experiential tourism to let the tourists experience life and culture of the region,” said T.K. Manzoor, Managing Director of the State-run Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC), started in 1995 to develop tourism destinations in and around the Bekal Fort and beaches. The BRDC scripted a success story recently by launching an initiative named the Small and Medium Industries Leveraging Experiential (SMiLE) Tourism to attract foreign tourists to see and experience the rich culture and traditions of Kasaragod and neighbouring parts of Kannur.

Four-fold increase

The BRDC’s strategy to draw tourists in the low-and-medium segments to the region has yielded results as there is a four-fold increase in the inflow of foreign tourists. Under SmiLE, a network of 50 tourism ventures managed by 93 entrepreneurs has been formed.

Kasaragod, which was once part of the South Canara district under the Madras Presidency of British India, has more to it than its public image as the district of maladies. Only scientific studies with proper controls will determine if there is higher prevalence of diseases in the district. But, tourism development has the potential to fix the image problem—and to provide jobs for many of the district’s unemployed youth, too.

(MALABAR MAIL is a regular column by The Hindu’s correspondents that reflects Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Jun 8, 2021 7:01:13 PM |

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