KOCHI: In what could be termed as a first of its kind programme, the collective alumni of two of the prestigious universities in the world - Oxford and Cambridge -- a total of 17 dignitaries, were hosted by former alumnus Ribu Polachirackal Tharakan and his wife Teresa John, a former economic policy advisor for the British Government, who is also a member of the Kottukapally family of Pala.
“Some of them had visited Kerala before, but this time, they were in for a different experience altogether,” said Ribu. Matching his words, the group that landed on Friday at Nedumbasseri airport were taken first to Fort Kochi to get a feel of the ongoing Biennale.
After a day at the Aspinwall House and Pepper House, they were treated to a dinner at the Yacht club, where Jose Dominic, CEO, CGH Earth talked about the Biennale and cultural tourism. “At KMB, they were amazed at how Kochi had transformed itself into that place where cultures met and communicated to one another,” said Ribu. Moving on, the group were taken to Pala, the next day, to the Kottukapally family house. One of the oldest families in the history of Kerala, the home is an exquisite structure more akin to a historic museum.
“Teresa’s mother Thressi Kottukapally is a renowned chef who taught [British] Chef Gordon Ramsay to make a perfect fish pollichathu (fish cooked in banana leaf) during his visit to Kerala. And the lunch she had prepared for them floored them. Mohamed Amersi, Trustee of the HRH Prince Charles’ Prince Trust, was especially awed by the setting. Along with Appam and mutton stew, the traditional ‘Nasrani sadya’ had 28 accompaniments. They also had time to unwind and relax at Kumarakom. On the final day, the guests were taken to Mavelikkara, to Ribu Tharakan’s family who were close to the erst-while Travancore aristocracy.
They were titled ‘Tharakan’ by the Maharajas of Travancore for having played a role in the history of Travancore, for being the financiers to the Maharajas and reconstructing the pilgrimage centre, Sabarimala.
“The idea was always at the back of my mind,” said Ribu, when asked about the initiative. “Last year, when the group visited the Baroda palace, suggestions came up that maybe I could organise a visit to Kerala. Then again, I had always dreamt of connecting cultures, and in a unique way. I’m very happy that it all went so well that most of them wanted to extend their stay!”
Suman Bery, the former chief economist, at the Royal Dutch Shell Corporation, was delighted with such a carefully organised and eventful trip “I was deeply impressed with the Biennale, which is a wonderful expression of Kochi’s links with Kerala and the world. Living in Fort Kochi that now flaunts a great infrastructure, with boutique hotels, homestays and restaurants was a lively experience. And to top it all, being part of the history of two of Kerala’s legendary families added to the charm of the trip.”
Shahana Basu, Director, Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Max India Limited, said, “For me, the most enjoyable part was travelling with like-minded people, visiting families and getting a good idea of the local people and places.”