American writer bags National Tourism Award for feature on Kerala

An American woman journalist, who wrote an exhilarating account of Kerala — a snapshot on the state’s rollicking palm-fringed beaches, gorgeous topography, serene spirituality and hospitality — has won a National Tourism Award.

Ms Stephanie Pearson, based in Santa Fe, won the award for “Best Foreign Journalist for India’ for feature write up on Kerala, “The Green Heaven”, which appeared in January 2015 issue of the prestigious Outside magazine. The piece, which was based on her experiences during her three-week Onam sojourn in God’s Own Country, will be anthologized in “The Best American Travel Writing”,a
book to be published by Random House in October this year.

A school teacher and science writer, she travelled more than 600 miles by car, train, kettuvallam, foot and kayak reporting a story about the wonderfully diverse wildlife, culture and spirituality of Kerala.The National Tourism Awards, 2014-15 were presented at a function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Saturday (July 30) .

While in Kerala, she was struck by how integrated the dense population is with its surrounding wilderness, which is one of the key theme of the story. She was also struck by how Kerala’s diverse
spirituality touches every aspect of the culture.

Particularly fascinating is her account of the secular Onam festival, which commemorates the return of the legendary king Mahabali, ‘who is said to have given every Keralan—whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jew, Jain, or other—equal rights and total prosperity.’She also gives a vivid account of the traditional Onam meal, sadya, which she savoured, as having “26 vegetarian servings like ash gourd, masala curry, sambar, papadams, mango pickles, and pressed rice flakes with jaggery, which were served on a banana leaf and eaten by hand”.

Another interesting account in the write-up is of the Aranmula Boat Race, a 700-year- old, nearly one-mile contest that starts at the Aranmula Temple on the River Pamba. “The race, in which 120-foot-long palliyodams, or snake boats, from 48 villages go head-to- head in front of thousands of spectators, has the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics and seems a fitting end to the celebration. The race is mayhem…..If this raucous festival is an accurate representation of life in the state famously known as God’s Own Country, then, I decide, God must thrive on chaos and like to have fun.”

The article, written in a lucid, flamboyant and anecdotal style, delves into the entire facets of Kerala’s life – its picturesque and rich in biodiversity Western Ghats, one of India’s seven Unesco Natural World Heritage sites, the picturesque backwaters, medicinal herbs, Ayurvedic hospitals, spices, flowers, hill stations.

The journalist salutes Kerala’s rich cultural ethos and religious pluralism. “As the epicenter of the world’s spice trade, Kerala has also endured as a largely independent, multicultural society for centuries. It’s a mind-boggling amalgam of cultures and beliefs,” she notes.

American writer bags National Tourism Award for feature on Kerala American writer bags National Tourism Award for feature on Kerala Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 09:07:00 Rating: 5

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