The Arattukulam Heaven home stay at Mararikulam beckons visitors by providing them an ideal environment to spend the days in leisure and serving authentic Keralite dishes. Andrew and Elsamma, the hosts, started the venture considering the tourism prospects of the villages near Mararikulam beach.
Over the last two years, the couple has welcomed guests from over 30 countries to enjoy their warm hospitality. The visitors have relished the love and care shown by the hosts and the homestay is attracting more travellers to its green surroundings.
Guests as Gods
The Mararikulam beach is almost a km away from the homestay. The backwaters are also some distance away. Starting a homestay was a dream for Andrew, but these factors prevented him from implementing his plan.
“We built this house in 2007. Later, our children moved away in connection with their jobs and family matters. Life after retirement became a boring affair,” says Andrew.
Moreover, they were living in house that was too big for two people. “A friend advised us to convert the upper storey into a home stay. This rekindled our dream to launch a home stay,” says Andrew.
He completed all official procedures for registration quickly and waited for the guests. “It was a sort of a trial. All my children supported the initiative. We wondered who would be the first guests,” he recalls.
The suspense was over within a week. “It was a surprise. The first guests we received were Americans. Having no previous experience in hosting tourists, we did all we could to make their stay comfortable. Special care was given to the food served,” says the couple.
Within no time, the visitors became like family. “We felt so sad when they returned after their stay here. However, their highly favourable reviews about our home stay attracted the attention of other travellers around the world. Soon, we began receiving guests from several other countries too,” says Andrew.
“We now have two visitors from Germany,” he adds.
Offering a warm welcome
Arattukulam house is on the Kanichukulangara - Pozhikkal route in Alappuzha district. Passion fruit grows in abundance right inside the entry gate. On the premises are a large garden and pond where fish are grown. Thick greenery covers the entire compound, most of them fruit trees, and sunlight hardly reaches the ground.
“The home stay was arranged on the upper storey and we lived on the ground floor. Initially, we were concerned whether this arrangement would affect the privacy of the guests. However, there have been no issues in this regard so far,” says Andrew.
Soon, as the popularity of the homestay grew and the couple started receiving more guests, a cottage was added on the premises. “There are two bedrooms in the cottage. Guests can choose the room they like,” he explains.
At Arattukulam, breakfast is included in the package. “Most foreign guests prefer vegetarian dishes. But visitors from North India demand fish and meat items,” Andrews reveals.
The kitchen is under the command of Elsamma. “Every guest enjoys the taste of the Keralite cuisine prepared by my wife and do not forget to shower praises on her,” says Andrew proudly.
Conducting a home stay is a big responsibility. “Each guest hails from a different country and follows a distinct culture. Sometimes, they get annoyed even over things we consider insignificant. We had such an experience while hosting a group from Belgium,” says Andrew.
He explains, “We keep a dog which can sometimes become dangerous. So, we lock the dog in a cage during daytime and set it free at night, as everyone does in our state. However, the Belgian tourists showed displeasure at this arrangement. They told me that the dog leash was too thin and the cage very small. But I considered it only as a casual comment.”
The Belgians asked Andrew some details about the homestay and sought his visiting card. “I thought they wanted to hand over the information to their friends in Belgium. I was happy that I would get more visitors from there,” he adds.
But Andrew was in for a shock soon. He realized that the Belgians had filed a complaint that a dog was being treated cruelly at the homestay. Moreover, the complaint had reached Central Minister and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi.
Andrew became panicky, but solved the issue with the help of a lawyer friend.
“Anyway, after the incident, I changed the leash of the dog and it is twice broader now,” he says.
Elsamma serves authentic local dishes like prawns with chillies, duck roast which has the smell of green chillies, ‘sambar’, ‘theeyal’, ‘thoran,’ and fish items to guests for lunch.
She also loves to serve and ensures that all visitors have their fill. The cooking casts a magical spell on the guests, making them feel truly at home in Arattukulam Heaven homestay.