The people of Kerala are so nice and I am not just saying that. Their hospitality was as lovely as flowers. The best way I can think of to describe their warmth and serenity is to compare it with the floating lotuses in water vessels placed at the entrances of hotels to greet and welcome guests.
There is a marked difference in their mannerisms and speech patterns compared to me and other Singaporeans. I may be Indian, but a trip to India made me feel even more markedly Singaporean than Indian. For starters we tend to talk in a much more hurried manner, like we have a train to catch. Our voices also tend to be excitable and raised. There is a tinge of impatience in our tones too, to a point that I feel we sound rude. In the complete opposite world of Kerala, the people I met spoke serenely, calmly and slowly, enunciating each word in their lovely soft tones. It was very soothing and made me feel so relaxed. The stress just melted away.
The staff at the Taj and in particular our wonderful driver Suresh were beyond amazing. Their hospitality was truly genuine. When Suresh dropped us off at the airport he even presented us with a gift at the last moment of a peacock fan. We were truly touched. I felt bad that we had not been as considerate to get him a gift. That’s the way the people there are. Just naturally gracious and hospitable. You can feel the genuineness in their smiles. They are proud of their country and cuisine and were very keen that we have a good time. They kept asking us when we were coming again.
Each time you return to the hotel from a day of touring, you are warmly greeted by the doorman and the hotel staff who patiently chat with you about your day and answer all your questions. Even if you are late for lunch, which we were due to excessive shopping, they offered to keep the buffet open even though it was supposed to end at 3 pm and it was already 3.30 pm. They also were ready to prepare us items that were not listed on the menu.
If you are ever in Cochin and stay at the Taj, make sure you ask for Suresh to pick you up. His job is to drive, but he went totally beyond that and became our host and tour guide as well. We know because we had 3 other drivers who paled in comparison. He was genuinely proud of his country and treated us like his guests in all senses of the word.