Kerala is second home for 90-year-old UK citizen Daphne Clara Richards, a solo woman traveller who arrived in Kochi on Tuesday on her 31 st visit.
A hard-core lover of the State and its people, she has been spending over a month each year in the State since 2002, residing mostly at a popular resort located off Marari beach. Showing no signs of jet lag, even after taking two flights for an 11-hour trip to Kochi, she spoke elaborately of how she developed a fondness for Kerala, since it is “very different” from the UK.
Ms. Richards spoke at length on how she had always been fascinated by India, particularly Kerala, ever since her brother visited India over seven decades ago and his girl friend from the country pursued college in the UK. “She later went on to marry an officer from the Indian Army. We kept in touch and used to read a lot about the country,” she said.
Born in Sussex, she was employed as secretary in the police force, when she met and went on to marry a senior police officer who was 18 years older than her. “After quitting police service, I joined the Red Cross and opted for voluntary nursing at a hospital in Portsmouth. I have been living alone after losing my husband 27 years ago.”
And how does she remain fit? She chuckled, saying, “I walk a lot within my home and have also been involved as volunteer in a cathedral. I also do yoga which I learnt from an Indian in the UK,” Ms. Richards said.
On the pride of place she gave to relationships, her host Juby Mathew Kattampally, a tour consultant, spoke of how she often made it a point to time her Kerala visit with weddings or even “noolukettu” of staff and children of the resort and her other acquaintances here. “Soon after landing here, she visits my home to have her favourite appam and vegetable stew breakfast. This time around, she had an engaging conversation with my 93-year-old mother, my mother-in-law and my wife.
Ms. Richards spoke of how she kept in touch with them, mostly through Facebook. I hope to come in January as well since Kerala and Marari are lovely and magical as “they keep calling you back. I get along well with people of the locality as well, so much so that a nearby church invited me to plant mango and jackfruit saplings in their compound. I also met a bishop and his wife and hence have been in touch.”
She has a room full of mementos from India, including an array of statues of elephants.
On the recent demise of Queen Elizabeth II, she spoke of how there had been a lot of outpouring of grief across the UK. “Her death was unexpected since she had just welcomed the new Prime Minister of the UK. I have seen her and Prince Philip, a handsome, very-much-in-love couple during my tenure with the police in the 1960s. The new King Charles III is hard-working, and people are keen to help him,” she said.