Profile: Dr. Vinu & Ayurveda

A couple of days ago I spoke with the resident Ayurvedic Doctor of Cardamom County, Dr. Vinu. Having a family tradition in ayurvedic practice like Ratheesh, he completed a five-year BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery) at the Alvas Ayurvedic Medical College in Mangalore, Karnataka. Dr. Vinu’s connection to ayurveda comes from his father’s side. His grandfather, Dr. Cherian, was a traditional practioner of ayurveda. He told me about how in those days, everything was prepared by hand and nothing was stored for longer than a month. The doctor would prescribe everything personally and even gave recipes for the quantities and ingredients needed to prepare the medicines to each person individually. Interestingly, Dr. Vinu said that when he was younger he wanted to be an allopathic doctor, but that his family tradition led him to the practice of ayurveda. He laments that the long-term and more holistic process of ayurveda is being lost in this fast paced and hurried world and workplace.

In ayurveda there are five main elements, which also correspond to four of the treatment rooms of Cardamom County, the five being prithvi (earth), jala (water), tejas (fire), vayu (air), and akash (space). Dr. Vinu also told me about the importance of physical observation and pulse diagnosis in ayurveda. We discussed the three doshas or body constitutions, of Vata, Pitha, and Kapha. Continue reading

Profile: Anu & The Reception

Over the past number of weeks, I have spent much of my time in and around the reception, working with the ever-smiling and cheerful Anu, the Front Office Manager here at Cardamom County. Having spent five years here at Cardamom County, she is a seasoned professional who always keeps guest feeling happy and welcome.

At the reception, guests are welcomed in the traditional way of Kerala. This involves giving the guest a sandalwood aarthi tikka on the forehead.  This beautiful ritual includes a thalam (a special tray) with a small lamp or nilavilakku & small vessels, including a kindi and a para, which contain oil and kerala rice, a brown speckled and starchy specialty of the state. Continue reading

In Conversation with Team Sustain

Over the past week our team at Cardamom Country has been in conversation with another team working for a brighter and better future for Planet Earth called Team Sustain. Founded in 1994, Team Sustain is based in Kochi, India and provides cost effective logistics and infrastructure solutions for sustainable resource utilization, engineering green solutions for the modern world. Mr. George Matthew, the founder of Team Sustain, spoke with me and explained that his main goal was to reduce the carbon footprint of as many people and organizations as possible. Mr. Matthew especially said he wanted to increase the benchmark and accepted levels of energy efficiency and encourage further sustainability-oriented social projects with minimal environmental costs. Continue reading

Profile: Varghese & Resource Management

A few days ago I spoke with Varghese, the restaurant manager and head of the food and beverage department here at Cardamom County, who prides himself in running a tight ship and making sure that guests are at their happiest. Varghese is another long-time member of the Cardamom County family, originally arriving here eleven years ago, in 2000. Having taken a two-year hospitality course in Ravipuram in Ernakulam (the same district housing Cochi), at a school that has now shifted to become the Fort Munnar Catering College in the misty mountains of nearby Munnar, and training with Taj Group of Hotels, he arrived to fill the role of a restaurant supervisor.


Varghese told me about his Uncle Phillip who was one of the many well-educated people from Kerala who went over to a Gulf country, in this case being Bahrain. We talked about this brain drain, which Varghese mentioned had been going on since as early as the 1970s. The highly educated people and professionals of Kerala go in search of new opportunities, higher living standards, and money to send back home. Varghese also talked about Arabic being a language that is not too difficult to pick up, especially because of the difficulty and speed with which the native tongue of Malayalam is spoken. However, what is interesting to note is the stark contrast of climate between the Gulf countries and Kerala, the former being very dry, arid, and hot with the latter being humid and comfortably cooler especially at higher altitudes near the Western Ghats such as here in Kumily, Idukki. Continue reading

Profile: Chef Pradeep & Indian Cuisine

Yesterday I met and spoke with another longstanding member of the Cardamom Country crew, Executive Chef, Mr. Pradeep. Having been affiliated with this resort since its inauguration  in November, 1999 (in fact starting two months prior to that for training), he serves as a kind of memory box for Cardamom County, not least about its cuisine.  But his  family heritage is intertwined with this location in a fascinating way too.

Chef Pradeep explained that his family hails originally from the state of Maharashtra.  His maternal grandfather came down to help construct the Mullaperiyar Dam 120 years ago, mentioned in greater detail in Michael’s post Damn Dams and Macaques. Thus, Chef Pradeep was born in Thekkady very close to where Cardamom County was eventually built, although he spent most of his life up until college in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. He moved back to Thekkady after he married his wife and decided to settle down at his place of birth. His wife had a government job, which is held in especially high regard here in Kerala, namely for its stability and the pension received later in life. Continue reading

Profile: Mereena & Sustainable Housekeeping

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Mereena, the head of the housekeeping department at Cardamom County. Mereena has been here since 2003, and started from the bottom rung of the housekeeping department ladder. Mereena explained to me how she was successively promoted six times.

She began as a trainee housemaid, and then progressed to official housemaid and then to senior housemaid. Next she became housekeeping desk assistant, then trainee housekeeping supervisor, and then housekeeping supervisor and finally Room Experience Officer and head of housekeeping. Taking full charge of the department required thorough and extensive knowledge of housekeeping but maintaining that authority has required managing responsibly.  In multiple senses of that term.

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Profile: Ratheesh & Wellness

Lately I have been speaking and spending time with Ratheesh at the front desk and around the resort. Ratheesh is an ayurvedic therapist and practitioner and also the resident yoga teacher at Cardamom County. It was actually Ratheesh’s grandmother, who he respectfully refers to as Thankamma, who taught him yoga techniques from a young age. We also discussed what inspired Ratheesh to enter the ayurvedic trade and his response was his family on his mom’s side had always been interested in this 5000-year-old medicinal trade. Dr. Leela Kumary, Ratheesh’s aunt, who is an ayurvedic doctor first inspired him to pursue a career in ayurveda from as early an age as ten.

Having grown up in the backwaters of Allepey, Ratheesh talked about bathing in the waters of the half-salty, half-freshwater due to the opening and closing of the floodgates in-between the dry and rainy seasons. He also told me about his one and a half year training in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in Ayura and the following one year practical residency at the Nagarjuna Ayurvedic Hospital in Kaladi, Ernakulam, near Cochi. This was followed by a transfer to Nagarjuna Ayurvedic Hospital branch in Mumbai, Maharashtra for one year where he had a great time sightseeing and living in the big city, especially close to Bollywood. However, in the end Ratheesh missed Kerala, especially citing the south Indian cuisine he grew up with, and returned to practice ayurveda and teach yoga within the hospitality industry. Continue reading

Profile: Jijo & Night Duty

Over the past few weeks it’s been great getting to know some of the extremely friendly, open, and welcoming members of Cardamom County working with them on a daily basis. One such member is Jijo, who I’ve had the pleasure of spending a few night auditing duties with and even going down to the local gym together with a bright red sign and a muscular fellow plastered to it aptly entitled “Masterpiece”.

Jijo actually started out at Cardamom County just short of a year ago, which means this August will be his first year anniversary as a part of the team. Before this, however, Jijo talked to me about his two years at Club Mahindra’s Tusker Trail, which was an enjoyable stay where he acquired the majority of the English skills he holds today through persistence and practice with guests and colleagues. However, because it was more of an exclusive club atmosphere, there were many regular visitors who were mainly originated only from India. Thus, Jijo came to Cardamom County because he wanted to meet many different kinds of people from all over the world including people of different cultures, religions, ideas, and languages to learn new things every day, which also encompasses what is his favourite part about the hospitality industry.

But Jijo’s real passion was triple jumping, and long jump on the side. The sport as he described it requires extreme physical fitness in conjunction with a high level of technicality and a precise balance and coordination of arms and legs to achieve the longest distance possible. Continue reading

Solar Powered

Over the last couple of days solar panel engineers have been arriving at here in Kumily to gauge the possibility of installing solar panels as well as examining the solar tubing water heating system to increase its efficiency. This involved the measuring and examination of various areas including the open rooftop of the All Spice Restaurant and the wide expanse of organic plantations, including the area cultivating ginger root, turmeric, and two varieties of yam: the typical sweet potato and the elephant yam.

Our team of engineers including Suresh and Santosh listed the various outlets of energy in the resort to help the solar paneling engineers estimate the input that could be provided as a supportive energy source. This included the fans, plug outlets, and the CFL or compact fluorescent lamps that are a very low 6W (watts). The solar paneling engineers mentioned that the last project that they had worked on was quite a large one, which involved a 65kW power source that took approximately six months to complete. As a reference, the nearby 25 meter high power line, which is provided by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), is an 110kW power source. It has not yet been determined how the space can be utilized here and how much wattage it will be able to harness from the power of the sun because as I’m quickly learning, it is a long and complicated process.

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Sustainable Operations in Kumily

Sustainable tourism and operations are what initially drew me in to coming to Kerala, India at the Cardamom County. Water conservation is a central issue facing the world today. Coming from Canada, which is said to store up to 20% of the world’s fresh water, the idea of not having water to drink is a strange one. Of all the water on our planet, 97.5 per cent is sea water and three-quarters of the remaining 2.5 per cent is locked in polar ice caps. The tiny bit left over is drinkable. Natural rainwater harvesting is a common practice throughout much of the Thekkady area and Kerala in general. Pots and larger storage vessels like the one pictured below are often used by the locals to hold rainwater that is abundant during the monsoon season from June to August.

It is considered fairly clean for use in washing clothing, dishes, and people themselves. The bottled water, however, in the form of individually packaged Aquafina bottles poses an issue. Fortunately Pepsico and Aquafina do use UV treatment, reverse osmosis, ozonisation, carbon filtration, and sand filtration to treat their water and has a protocol of giving back more water than is taken in a program called “Positive Water Balance”. Pepsico India saved 836 units more water than it consumed in 2009, which is an uplifting thing to hear about.

On-site organic farming results in a great number of useful plants and herbs which can be made into oils, creams, and pastes which are central to the Ayurvedic Centre run by certified ayurveda practitioner Dr. Vinu. Among the more interesting herbal remedies is from the serpentine root or rauvoifia tetraphylla which provides an antidote for snakebites.

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Which God?

The other day I was working in the Ants gift shop with its manager Manoj, who also represents the helm of the guest relations experience department. When I began asking about the various products offered in the gift shop ranging from vibrant dhotis and saris to spice and herb books as well as delicately carved houseboat models, I noticed two sculptures of what appeared to me to be Hindu gods. It turns out the first god was Krishna, the young boy playing a flute. The second was the well-known elephant headed god, Ganesha.  If you’re not yet aware, Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. And by polytheistic that means there are over a whopping 330 million different gods in Hinduism. Continue reading