A common way to describe Kerala is "India light", used by locals and visitors alike. It's an homage to one of the country's top travel and living destinations; Kerala has all the flavour of India but without the carbs, so to speak.
Population development, progressing gender dynamics and a thriving economy have positioned the southwestern state as a model to aspire to across the subcontinent and beyond. I travelled to Kerala on assignment with an international portrait photographer, escorted by locals which allowed us an inside look into the elevated quality of life people here enjoy. I was able to really get behind the scenes and began to learn what makes this narrow pocket of India so inviting.
We hiked through the dense forests of Wayanad where wild elephants roam and the exotic flora fills the mountain gorges. We wandered along sweeping beaches among fishermen hauling their daily catch off colourful wooden vessels. We caught a boat and floated through serene backwaters, rice paddies drifting past on either side. We feasted on fresh local cuisine, which couldn't be more different to the western interpretation of Indian food (much better, might I add). We ducked in and out of golden temples, traditional homes and bustling street markets.
For three glorious weeks I fell gradually more in love with Kerala, and it's a relationship that is only just beginning. I have already been back once more to deepen that bond. It is not just the beautiful landscapes and ease of exploration that draws me back. As I think this series shows, it is the people that really pulled me in. Their inviting nature, florid aesthetic and friendly disposition allowed for some of my favourite portraits from across the world.
"India light", is a smooth tropical culture of colour and progress, and one for which I think I will always have a thirst. A mere two weeks has passed, and I'm already parched.