A Charming Town

A wag has said Kottayam is a land of three Ls: Letters, Lakes and Latex. While we endorse this heartily, we would like to add two Ms - Manorama and MASCOM.

You need more alphabets, of course, to speak of the many distinctions of this “city of letters.” The list is long but we’ll keep it short. Kottayam was India’s first district to become fully literate in 1989 and to be declared tobacco-free in 2008 - you smoke at risk of cancer and fines. The town had the first Malayalam language printing press in 1821 and it was the first in Kerala to rise against untouchability in 1924. It’s a thriving hub of publishing: of both newspapers and books. Besides being the nerve centre of Malayala Manorama, India’s leading regional language newspaper read by no fewer than one crore people every day, it boasts of many more dailies and periodicals.

There is much more to this small, modern town in central Kerala. Small, yes, but not so small really that three cars cause a traffic hold-up. In fact, the “inside of a fort” - that's what Kottayam means in Malayalam - has more high-end cars than you would expect to find in a town of one lakh people. This rubber-rich town (the last of the wag’s three Ls refers to this) has more than its share of swanky shops, cinemas, eateries, posh apartment blocks and plush hotels. You can’t walk 500 yards without spotting a sari shop or a jewellery store. Or a beauty parlour. On the narrow, serpentine roads you can’t miss either the shops dishing out fresh potato and tapioca chips from kadais of the size of babies’ swimming pools or the thattukadas that serve all the quick snacks with exotic flavours that the doctor told you to stay away from - but you live only once. That reminds us of Kerala’s famed health care. The town has hospitals where you can trust the doctor.

Aren’t we forgetting the fascinating getaways which are tantalisingly close? Depending on the direction in which you hop, skip or jump you may either hit the hills or at least the foothills, the forests or at least rubber plantations, the backwaters or the sea, the rivers or the lakes. The ecosystem of sun, sand and waters is the natural fabric that’s Kottayam’s vicinity. Do we hear you say wow? Read on.

Just 15 km away from Kottayam is the backwater tourist hotspot Kumarakom, a favourite haunt of celebrities from India and abroad, where so many houseboats crisscross the waters that it’s God’s Own Miracle they don’t smash into each other.

Weather in Kottayam? When it rains, it pours. When the sun shines, it really does. But never mind. People are warm too. Mornings and evenings are pleasant for most part of the year. Welcome..