There is nothing showy or fancy about Pala Kuruvinakunnel Tharavadu, aka Madukakunnu Estate Bungalow. But still, it is a favorite among foreigners visiting Kerala.
The Kuruvinakunnel 'tharavadu' (ancestral house) has seen glorious times and many celebrated guests. Right from the day Anita Jose came to the 'tharavadu' as a new bride, she has been hearing tales of the famous guests who have stayed here. But what the family had never imagined was the huge business prospects that this bungalow built in 1940 could have in the future. Today, the name of this 'tharavadu' is more familiar to the foreign guests than for Malayalees. In 2005, the 'tharavadu' has had an interesting makeover as a heritage homestay.
It was Anita’s husband, Jose Dominic, the MD of CGH Earth, and her daughter, who persuaded her to consider the possibility of converting the 'tharavadu' into a homestay. As the family is based in Ernakulam, they also thought of this as a means to preserve their ancestral house in its true splendor.
Except some minor renovations, everything was retained as such. The first guest to the house was businessman Peirce Leslie and his family. After that start, the guests poured in from across continents.
Most of the guests who came here to stay did not prefer to move around or indulge in sightseeing. They all came looking for some peaceful, laid back time to just relax and enjoy the plantation and the various farming activities that go on here. They were all very interested in learning about the culture and tradition of Kerala, says Anita.
There were writers who came in search of pure solitude and a few who specifically requested to not have the usual traditional sadyas or Kathakali performances as they were quite bored of seeing it everywhere else.
It was Anita’s daughter, Mridula, an architect who did the interior decoration and decor styling. Curios procured from all over the world can be seen in various niches and corners of the house. This includes an interesting collection of masks and curious looking weapons from foreign countries.
The antique furniture and even the clay tile flooring has still not lost its sheen. The wooden wall cabinets are all custom-made. There is even a library for the bookworms. The house has four spacious bedrooms, and separate dining areas for breakfast, lunch and dinner times.
Numerous celebrities have graced this tharavadu without getting in the spotlight or without the knowledge of media or paparazzi. The famous singer-songwriter Paul McCartney is just one among them. During one of the legend’s morning walks while staying here, he came across the workers tapping rubber at the plantation. Seeing this for the first time, he even had a go at one of the rubber trees there! When Anita tell this story to the foreign guests, many foreign guests would click a photo of themselves hugging that very tree!
The vegetables used for preparing the food come from the organic farming done in the estate. Those coming here to learn the Kerala style of cooking often return carrying packets of wheat flour or papads.
An antique ‘thadipura’ (wood house) that was brought in from another estate of the family is a favorite among most foreign guests. The traditional style architecture and the intricate wood works seen at the 'thadipura' add an exquisite touch to the whole look of the estate.
Anita attends to all the guests coming here just as if they are family. A comment added by an English couple, Paul and Lucy, in the guest book bears testimony to Anita's hospitality: “Even if it was just for two days, thank you for making us feel like family!”
Things to Know
In order to start a heritage home stay, an application for the same must be submitted to the Tourism Department. Depending on the various facilities provided and the age of the house, diamond, gold or silver ratings will be allotted. At least one member of the family needs to be able to converse in English fluently. Any renovation undertaken should be according to traditional architectural styles. A possession certificate from the local self-government and a police clearance certificate are other mandatory requirements.