Weddings are usually extravagant and splendid affairs in Kerala, but if you are looking for nuptials minus the usual pomp, there is an ideal place.
On Sunday, Akshara and Aneesh, both residents of Kanjikuzhi in Idukki district, tied the knot beneath the canopy of a giant tree amidst the soothing sound of tree leaves rustling and birds chirping in the slight breeze.
Their wedding took place at the ‘Smrithi Vanam’, a memorial grove, set up by Akshara’s father Venmani Suresh and his brothers as a memorial for his father Kochuveettil K R Kesavan.
“Anyone who wishes to have a low-cost wedding sans luxury a/c auditorium or lavish feasts are welcome to Smrithi Vanam. We don’t charge any rent. The canopy put up under the tree will be there till the Onam season,” sid Suresh.
Suresh, a school dropout, is a barber by profession. Apart from being a celebrity hairstylist, he has written many dramas and poems and actively involves in social and welfare activities in his locality.
The memorial grove is set up in one acre of the ancestral property. The family has 48 members including Kesavan’s children and grandchildren.
Suresh, Kesavan’s younger son, looks after the grove surrounded by scrub and deciduous patches of forest with over 100 native fruit-bearing trees and rare plant species.
Akshaya’s husband Aneesh, who works as a driver, also belongs to an agricultural family. After the wedding ceremony, the couple planted a mango sapling at the grove. The menu for the post-wedding reception comprised sambharam, banana varities such as robusta, palayamkodan and nendran, cardamom tea, vetiver water, jackfruit, and biscuits.
Suresh’s clientele includes a few prominent personalities such as singer K J Yesudas, former chief minister Oommen Chandy, former ministers K M Mani, P J Joseph, and film directors Ranjith and Siddique. "Some people offer me train tickets so that I can reach their places to give a haircut and shave," Suresh claimed.
In 2015, he was in the news for cutting and styling a client’s hair blindfolded in 15 minutes. “Oommen Chandy sir’s messy hair says a lot about his attitude. He will tell me in advance that he would not sit for more than five minutes. If I fail to meet the ‘deadline’ he would leave half way through cutting. But Yesudas sir is just the opposite. He would sit patiently till I finish the job,” Suresh revealed.
Suresh was also the personal barber of Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, who used to get his hair cut by Suresh for 40 years. ‘Sankumudra’, a symbol of appreciation, was awarded to him by the erstwhile royal family.
Currently, Suresh runs a family beauty parlour at Kurishu Junction in Thiruvalla. His wife Beena also is a beautician. The couple’s younger daughter Akshaya is a Plus Two student.
Onto his social activities, Suresh said he had initiated the renovation of the Kalakairali Library at Kanjikuzhi. It had been lying abandoned for over 15 years. The library was revamped and transformed into a study centre for the benefit of children in the area.
During the last Onam season, he formed a group comprising 100 families from Varakulam village and split them into 20 teams to prepare a 20-dish sumptuous feast.
He has also worked as an assistant to famous drama stage designer Sujathan. Suresh has written nine plays and as many as 40 poems.
Now he’s preparing to write a haircutting manual. “It will have at least 1,500 pages and will cover every aspect of the profession,” Suresh concluded.