I'm what's known in the biz as a saipa, but have been spending long stretches of time in Kerala and Tamil Nadu since I was a young child in the early 1980s. I've watched from afar as South India has been transformed into a major notch on the India tourism belt. Returning this summer after a long absence, I downloaded these two chapters as a helpful reference for transportation and other basic info on my travels. While Lonely Planet is always the best option for finding a train station or post office (hence the two stars), I was disgusted by the condescending and self-important tone of the writing in this edition.
The Kerala chapter starts by noting that the State is "emerging as one of India's most popular new tourist hot spots. So, thanks for coming, and congratulations on being a part of the solution." Yes, rich Western tourists really need a pat on the back for taking a vacation. I'm not anti-tourism by any stretch, but let's not imagine that we're making Kerala a better place merely by our sainted presence. In fact, the author is soon acknowledging tourism's double-edged sword, bemoaning the fact that "in the high season you're likely to get caught in backwater-gridlock" on Kerala's inland waterways. Too bad for the Keralans who might need to use the waterways to eke out a living or to get from one place to another.
Writing about the Chinese fishing nets long used in and around Kochi, the chapter notes spectacularly that: "unfortunately, modern fishing techniques are making these labour-intensive methods less and less profitable." God forbid that poor fishermen make their lives slightly less difficult by adopting new technology! That would limit the number of identical tourist photographs that can be taken of the sun setting behind a web of giant nets.
Sadly for the author, the Tamil Nadu chapter tips his/her hand. A lavish hotel in Puducherry is described as "a restored colonial mansion with rooms that appeal to your inner pith-helmeted aristocrat." So yes, if recalling the halcyon days of British colonialism appeals to your unexamined white privilege, by all means, buy this book. Western tourists have been carrying this attitude around India for decades. What surprised me is that one of them was paid to write and publish these chapters. Trust me, all the train station and post office information you need is available for free on this thing that you're using right now called the internet.