East Ham MP Stephen Timms has been to Kerala and seen the home state of some Newham residents
PUBLISHED: 10:32 25 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:44 25 January 2017
This month I made – with my wife – my first visit to Kerala, India. We were guests of Follow Me TV, which broadcasts in the local Malayalee language. Set up by the Catholic Church, the station was organising a big celebration of its expansion onto satellite.
Organisations like Kerala Catholic Association, Malayalee Association UK and Sree Narayana Guru Mission, all with Kerala roots, are active in Newham. Their members extol the beauty of their home state – “God’s Own Country” as it is known.
We flew to historic Kochi. We explored its silk market, 16th century synagogue and famous Chinese fishing nets. We stayed on a forested hill an hour’s drive east, close to spectacular Athirappilly waterfall. Driving from there through wooded hills, elephants roamed by the road.
After two nights, we drove south. We visited Alleppey, at the heart of the beautiful Kerala backwaters – a coastal district where many farming communities can only be reached by boat. We met the man who, 25 years ago, first offered tourists the chance to explore the backwaters on a houseboat. Today, there are about 1,000 houseboats. We had a short ride on one.
Kerala has a Communist elected state government. It was striking how many red flags fly across the state.
Reaching the state capital, Trivandrum, we visited Santhigiri Ashram. We then met over 100 staff working for East London software house Testhouse, in their office at the impressive Trivandrum Technopark. We stayed that night at Kovalam beach nearby, before the spectacular celebration – with an audience of thousands – at Trivandrum stadium.
People with roots in Kerala make an important contribution in east London. It was great to see its beauty for ourselves. It’s no surprise that the Association of British Travel Agents has just made Kerala one of its “destinations to watch” for 2017. More from Stephen
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