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village of kothamangalam and പൗരന്മാർക്ക്

The day promised to be long and tiring. Our destination was the small village of Kothamangalam (Tamil Nadu) in southern India. It is one of four settlements, along with Kanadukathan, Pallathur, and Kottaiyur, in the Cluster I of Chettinad Villages of Tamil Merchants, a UNESCO cultural designation.

Our group of eight flew from Mumbai to Chennai and from there we caught another flight to Tiruchirapalli and then transferred to a bus that drove us approximately two hours to our Chettinad villa for a three night stay.

Kothamangalam is in the center of the Chettinad region of India, the reason for our visit.

I want to devote three posts to Kothamangalam. The first one will be short and show the people who live there. The second will offer a photo display of the exterior of  the extraordinary Chattenad villas that the rich merchants of the area built. The third post will be a visit into one, maybe two, of these villas. We stayed in Saratha Vilas, a wonderfully restored Chattinad villa, and most of the post, if not all, will be devoted to it.

The children I saw and met in northern India (a previous trip) and southern India have two qualities: they make eye contact easily, and they smile. They laugh. Sometimes they are shy, but very few decline to have their pictures taken. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

They like to pose. The candid photos are often hard to take. They spot a foreigner, and immediately they stiffen a bit, stand erect, and become serious. They love to see the photo after it has been taken.

I was told once that comparisons are risky. When one smiles at a French person, they wonder what you mean, what you want; they seldom smile back. The Indian adult will easily make eye contact and immediately smile if they see you smiling. Their smiles are big and warm and welcoming. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

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Here, in the beginning of their journeys, we see tourists soon to metamorphose into travelers. They will enter the world into which they travel, and as tourists, bringing their own world with them, they will soon leave it behind and see the one they are in and become travelers. Take note: it this moment in time the tour will start to become a tale.

“Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux.” –Marcel Proust

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