In conversation with Mathew K. Mathew,
advertising professional from Baltimore
Baltimore-based adman and conceptual artist Mathew K. Mathew spends a major part of his time designing ads and newsletters, painting, and making videos of people, places and food. Mathew’s interests include art, travel, graphic novels, films and photography.
His current work is centered on My Mother’s Kitchen, an online food channel by his wife Leela. Drawing inspiration from her mother’s cooking, Leela demonstrates how Indian food can be made using her easy-to-follow guidelines – very useful for young Indian expats all over the world.
Though the pandemic has slowed things down, it has not dampened Mathew’s creative zeal one bit. He is eagerly looking forward to visiting home once again – to soak in the vacation experience of verdant hilltops and the placid backwaters of Kerala, where most of his childhood days were spent.
Here’s our first question, Mathew - how would you categorize your travel experiences?
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” This quote by St. Augustine sums up my view on traveling. Most of my vacations were either in India or at a place of great interest – giving me value for the money I spent.
If I would visit a country again and again, that would be Italy - not for its churches or food but mainly for a truly inspired experience. Europe gives you a mix of history, culture and art with an appeal all its own. India too is so rich in terms of heritage, offering a colorful kaleidoscope of varied experiences, when you travel north to south and coast to coast.
Can you re-live one experience back home in India, linked to a dream vacation?
The backwaters of Kerala got me hooked as soon as I took my first boat ride with my parents from Vaikom to Kochi. It was almost like a dream; I was just a child then. I had to wait many more years for another visit, on a Coir Board photography assignment in Kerala. The trip coincided with the famous Nehru Boat Race at Alappuzha, and that made things all the more interesting.
For me, personally, the call of the backwaters didn’t stop with that trip. I did go back to Kumarakom, many times - and the last trip in 2018 was extraordinary. For one whole day, I was drifting about the Kumarakom Kayal with my family and friends - with not a worry in the world. Keeping me company of course, was a glass of fresh toddy – neat for extra comfort! The Pulikkattil houseboat ride was like no other - an unforgettable experience worth doing all over again.
Can you tell us about your travels in and around religious destinations?
There are many churches and temples in Kerala that are famous for their history and some are destinations of pilgrimage. I have managed to visit some of them over the years, with the family.
I have visited Bharanaganam a couple of times even before it became a place of pilgrimage after the canonization of Sr. Alphonsa. It is perhaps the busiest Christian pilgrim center in Kerala. Bharanaganam is about 35kms from Kottayam and 6kms from Pala. (Last visited: January 2018.)
I might have visited the church a dozen times while studying at the Sacred Heart high school and college in Kochi in the ‘60s. The St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church is one of the oldest in India - the original church was built in 594 AD. In 1080 another church was built near the old one. A festival in honor of St. George is celebrated during May-June every year. A magnificent new church with ornate interiors was completed in 2015. (Last visited: January 2018.)
The original St.Thomas Church was built in the year AD 1002. It was later elevated to a Cathedral. The church was built by a prominent group of families, namely: Tharayil, Erakonni, Vayalakkombu & Koottunkal. Some of the descendants of these original Christians are still living in Pala.
During the pandemic, what was it like with vacations put on hold?
COVID-19 has disrupted life like never before. Activities such as going to the gym at the Towson YMCA, attending Sunday Mass at church, and shopping for groceries, have suffered because of a minuscule virus! It did disrupt not only my way of life on any average day, but also some of my set plans for travel and vacations.
Our trip to the Holy Land (Israel and Jordan) was set to start in late October 2019, but ended up in a cancellation – with funds in the hands of the tour group. The airfare was refunded but the reservation fee is still being retained by the tour group – and this will be offset only if we go on a trip with them again. But when?
What would you expect from your hotel in terms of safety precautions?
During this pandemic situation I am sure the hotels, cruise lines and tour groups are extra cautious about how they deal with their clients because everything hangs on reputation.
I think things will get back to normal once the pandemic situation is managed carefully, with effective vaccines and safety measures. At the end of the day, any step forward calls for caution, hope and faith.
All images used are courtesy of Mathew K. Mathew
Mathew K. MathewWebsite
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