ON THE WAY TO Marari Beach in the district of Alappuzha in Kerala, an hour’s drive from Kochi, we spied a huge billboard advertising ‘God’s Own Optician!’ The optician obviously had a sense of humour. Not only had he employed a clever play on words based on Kerala’s moniker, God’s Own Country, but the advertisement also portrayed a huge pair of spectacles staring into space in an all-seeing way. Beyond the advertisement rose a grove of palm trees, lush and green.
Our chagrin at 21st-century marketing making inroads into this idyllic rural kingdom soon dissipated as the landscape swept past our car windows. Narrow country roads lined with red-tiled roof homes snuggling in the shade of fecund foliage, and village shops strung with plump yellow and red bananas wound onward to our destination, Xandari Pearl.
Our arrival at the resort, which spread over 18 acres, was reassuring. Not much had changed in the quiescent region, barring the cropping up of some homestays near St Augustine’s Church in the neighbouring Mararikulam village and a few luxury resorts.
Sensory bombardment and beachfront bliss awaited us at Marari. We were welcomed by a lissom Kerala girl in beige and gold-bordered Nasrani (Syrian Christian) attire who escorted us to our pearl-shaped villa. The 20-villa resort revealed its assets unabashedly in the course of our stroll—a glistening green fish pond rippling with marine life, a butterfly garden shimmering with the evanescent colours of tiny wings, a pool encircled by stands of coconut, mango, and cashew trees, a spice garden rife with aromas of cinnamon and pepper, and a farm with goats and the diminutive, endangered Vechoor cow, whose milk is valued in Ayurvedic medicine. Finally, we stepped into our spacious villa done up in shades of shimmering pearl-grey, light green, and a mother-of-pearl screen. Our abode, which came with a private plunge pool, garden, sandy sit-out, private dining area, and a hammock, called for a siesta.
However, we were urged to get to the beach where life carries on in its unsullied ways. The grass underfoot was gilded by a wan sun, typical of the monsoon, as we headed for the stretch of cinnamon-coloured sand fringed by casuarina trees and coconut groves.
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