To get to the forest village Pakuthippalam, on the fringes of the world famous Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, is a strenuous task. After you make your way up a winding-mountain road with numerous hairpin bends you have to park your car at Nooradi at Nelliyampathy for it can go no further. You then hop onto a four-wheeler jeep which will take you through difficult terrains for more than 20 kms before dropping you off at the coffee plantation owned by Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC). Wild elephants and bison frequent the coffee plantation which was cleared long before to accommodate a group of Tamil repatriates from Sri Lanka.
Other than coffee cultivation, the Kerala-government owned corporation operates a holiday home at Pakuthippalam where a dozen people can stay at a time. Visitors can opt for a package which includes food, accommodation, camp fire, trekking and safari. One of the major attractions with the holiday home is its exquisite menu comprising tasty and quality food. The credit for the food goes to its cook, Manoharan, an estate worker by profession and cook by choice.
Hailing from Kandy in Sri Lanka, this expatriate Tamil’s life story should be read alongside the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the unrest fueling against it across the country. He arrived at Pakuthippalam at the age of 17 after Sri Lanka refused citizenship for a huge chunk of Tamils of Indian origin soon after its independence. Forced to return to India, he reached the coffee plantation under a much-hyped rehabilitation plan initiated by then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Manoharan said his forefathers had left their native Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu over two hundred years ago to work in the new tea plantations established by the Britishers in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).