The Back Stories

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Beach time with little Adoniya and her mother Sini, member of the Xandari family.

Ask me the most meaningful part of my job around here in recent time and I’d hold up the Xandari films without a doubt. To call them films or videos is an acknowledgement of their formats and the creative process that goes into them. But to embrace all of them together with the words labour of love is simply the truth. (Watch them here).That we loved making them, loved dissecting the resorts to take a closer look at their DNA, their dreams. Above all, loved the Xandari family a little bit more. I’ll tell you why.

While Curiouser and us have got 9 videos off the table, this one will stay with me for ever and a day. It will remind me that people are living stories; to take time to read them and hear them out. It will stand as a lesson to be kind, for you know not the battles waged by the other. It throws light on the simplicity of life, how it doesn’t take much to be content. And happy. Many coconut trees to climb for one, plants fruiting and being able to pick vegetables in a saline clime for another. The chance to dole out food love is happiness for one, while the other cannot have enough of the beach breeze. Four people, four thousand times the stories. And a whole lot of love.

Roots and Anchors begins with Pushpangadhan, gardener-cum-tree climber at Xandari Pearl. With hundreds of coconut trees on the 18 acres of the resort, he sure gets a bird’s eye view of things around. And all encompassing is his view on life, too. Especially plant life. By making a case for how every inch of a tree is useful to mankind, this green-thumbed man subtly points at Nature’s ways of giving. Leaving it to us to question what we give back. Beyond his climbing responsibilities, he is the go-to man for all ailments given that he uses only plant goodness to set things right. Nature gives, and gives – he reminds.

The second to feature in the film is Mercy Justin, head gardener. A spirited Congress supporter, she’s contested and won local elections in the past. And does not take too kindly even to a stray word against her party. At Xandari Pearl, her contest is against the saline conditions by the beach. With the sea at walking distance, salinity permeates the air and soil. Water used is high in iron, resulting in fruits and vegetables withering at a tender age. But Johny and her team relentlessly work to ensure the plants fulfill their purpose – the fruits of hard work are indeed sweet, she stresses.

Kurup chetan (a Malayalam term of respect for a male elder) – hear his story once, and there’s no forgetting him. The eldest family member at Xandari Pearl, he runs the staff kitchen like only a family elder can. There’s warm, delicious food at all meal times; there’s never turning a hungry staffer away; he’s among the last to eat. While self-service is the norm, Kurup chetan personally serves the ‘special of the day’ in little dishes to every person who walks into the kitchen. And there’s a loving smile plated, too. For he once cooked for soldiers of the Indian Army in the coldest parts of the country. He’s served breakfast to soldiers who didn’t return for dinner. There, he learnt that the little things matter: a pat on the shoulder, food cooked with a whole lot of love, conversations at the table, and making sure to let each person know they matter.

My favourite person at Xandari Pearl is a member of the extended family.While it’s easy to consider only colleagues as your people, the beauty of family is that it has its deliciously surprising ways of making you its own.I first met little Adoniya on the beach and she appointed herself as my kite-flying instructor. Conversations were struck and I discovered that her mother worked at Xandari Pearl. It was a good weird – the way someone on the outside told us about a team member on the inside. We knew we had to tell this family’s story. Sini narrates how she eased into her job as a cook in Kurup chetan’s kitchen, also dwelling on her family and her love for the sea. It sustains her family (her husband is a fisherman), is a goldmine of discoveries for her school-aged children. And often, the sea breeze weaving love notes amid tree branches is all you need, she says.

Stories – read, listen. And make yours.

 

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