God’s Own Country

It’s now just over the midpoint of my time here in India, and so much has happened that there’s no way I would be able to fit it all in this blogpost! I’ve experienced so many different things in Madurai (both in and out of the office), but I have to admit my favorite moments have been traveling outside of Madurai.

My first favorite moment has to do with family. On July 3rd, my cousin got married in Kerala, so I headed over to join in the festivities for a few days. I took the Amritha Express from Madurai to Thrissur (7 hours—thank God for AC!). This was my first time traveling alone on a train in India, much to my excitement and my mother’s worry. Luckily, the trip was pretty smooth, except for a last minute 2-hour delay warning that happily turned out to be false!

Anyway, when I finally made it to my relatives’ home, I was surrounded by all of my extended family—cousins, second cousins, great-aunts, uncles, grandparents, and my parents and sister! We spent all our time together, playing many intense games of UNO and carroms, dressing up for wedding events, going on evening boat rides and midnight milkshake runs, and teasing the newlyweds.

The Bride and Groom! (My cousin is the groom)
Some of the first and second cousins! I’m the second from the right in pink.
And all of the first and second cousins!

I have to admit that I really didn’t want to leave and go back to work in Madurai, but happily I didn’t have to wait long until my second favorite moment so far!

The Sunday after the wedding, Anjali, Catherine, and I went on a day trip to Munnar (a town near the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala). Since Munnar is a twisting and turning 4-hour car ride away from Madurai, we left at 5 AM. I fell asleep in the car (I can fall asleep pretty much anywhere), but when I woke up 2 hours in, my jaw dropped and I was utterly speechless.

Munnar is one of the most breathtaking places on Earth and maybe the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Waking up to soft rolling hills covered in rows and rows of tea plants, the bottoms of clouds skirting the peaks of the hills, and every shade of green imaginable, I was so struck that I felt like crying. It was amazing to me that I had never been to Munnar before, even though it is a mere few hours from my grandparents’ home.

Me at Eravikulam Park in Munnar

We spent our day taking in the brilliant views at Eravikulam National Park, riding an elephant(!!), learning about (and eating the leaves of) special Indian herbs, and eating some amazing vegetarian food!

Lunch at Saravana Bhavan

Honestly, reading over what I’ve written, I (or any photo) can’t do Munnar’s beauty any justice, so all I can say is that you should definitely go! 100% worth it, I promise you!

Funnily enough, both of these two favorite moments that I’ve described were in Kerala, a state known as “God’s Own Country” by its residents. Kerala really does have so much heart and beauty, and I’m glad I’ve gotten to know this even better this summer.

And finally, because I promised Cherry I would, here’s a picture of me from when we visited Aurolab!

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About Nadha Illikkal

Hi! I'm Nadha Illikkal, and I'm a rising junior studying Health and Societies. I'm a born-and-bred New Englander from Andover, Massachusetts. This summer, I'll be interning at Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, where I hope to learn about compassionate and high quality care. In my free time, I love doing puzzles (jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, you name it!) and watching sports!