Kerala Tourism makes literary foray, unveils book that opens a door to contemporary Kerala

Kerala Tourism and Harper Collins jointly launch bestseller ‘Onam in a Nightie’

Joining hands with a top publisher is what Kerala Tourism has done of late, thereby making its foray into the world of letters. The result is a bestseller that celebrates the hope, resilience, and intrinsic humaneness of Malayalis during the pandemic and depicts the ordinary in an extraordinary and authentic manner.

The book, Onam in a Nightie: Stories from a Kerala Quarantine, written by noted journalist-author Anjana Menon and published by Harper Collins India, was unveiled in New Delhi. Dr Shashi Tharoor, MP, and Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, unveiled the 230-page book that revolves around the Delhi-based author’s relationship with her parents living in Kerala, and her idea of belonging and identity. The non-fiction work, with a series of slice-of-life stories, opens wide a window on the uniqueness of Kerala and what it is to be a Malayali.

Kerala Tourism has made a strong pitch for the book as part of its conscious strategy to present a tapestry of its human aspects and not only the beauteous nature of the state. Earlier also, it had launched internationally-acclaimed ‘Human by Nature’ campaign, showcasing the culture and daily life of the people of the state.

Book termed as celebrating the new-age spirit of Kerala Tourism

Dr. Venu V, Additional Chief Secretary (Tourism), Government of Kerala, said the overarching theme adopted by Kerala Tourism is portrayal, not showcasing, of its abiding principles which are to present the ordinary in the state that is extraordinary, and the intense humaneness of its people. “We have moved away from the classical idea of hard selling destination. The book does not talk about places of tourist interest but about the ordinary people in a small town and their relationship imbued with intense humanness and some minuses too. The overarching principle should shine through whatever we do. That is why we are supporting this book which portrays and epitomises these abiding principles,” he pointed out.

“This is something we have never done before,” he added. “The book opens door to the real contemporary Kerala and also represents the new-age spirit of Kerala Tourism.”

Dr Venu said a destination can be beautiful but Kerala Tourism believes that people are more beautiful if viewed through the prism of humanness and togetherness. “The fact is destinations are not really the heroes for us; the ordinary human beings are as they lead their lives with grit, jollity and camaraderie. These are the qualities that made them survive and return from the brink during the catastrophic times of the pandemic.”

A look at Kerala and its people in a non-intrusive way

Onam in a Nightie is a book about what happens when the author leaves her home in Delhi to visit her ageing parents in faraway Kerala to keep them company during the pandemic that has brought life to a grinding halt. It captures the hope and resilience of the Malayalis in a hopeless time of the pandemic through 40 real stories. This is part travelogue, part memoir, peppered with wry sense of humour, empathy, and heart-warming accounts.

Dr Tharoor said the author looks at Kerala and its people in a non-intrusive way. “Anjana isn’t sarcastic or judgemental; instead she is deeply observant. She gives deep little insights into the human mind and conduct.” According to Amitabh Kant, the book is “extraordinary and it beautifully captures the life of Kerala and Malayalis.”

Already in the bestseller list on the travel category, the book, set in the midway Kerala town of Thrissur, has got rave reviews and the writing has been compared to that of literary giants such as William Faulkner and R K Narayan with traces of P G Wodehouse.

The book also takes readers on a heart-warming and hilarious journey into Kerala by unravelling the strong community spirit that rescues it each time it is on the brink. As an outsider looking in, Menon’s taut writing paints a vivid picture of the state that could also be any corner of small-town India. It is filled with quirky and feisty characters whose extraordinariness is both uplifting and universal. The book can trigger what the author says ‘a smile or a memory’.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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