Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine, based in Bengaluru. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Since 1998, she has been engaged in researching the culture and history of Kodagu. In 2013, Kaveri published The Vanishing Kodavas (Eminence Designs), an extensive cultural study of the Kodava people. The book details the story of the Kodavas in their own voices, supported by deeply researched and previously unexplored aspects of their social, religious and cultural practices. A parallel, rich, visual narrative supports the text. An invaluable documentation of a very small community under great pressure to maintain their identity in a rapidly changing world, since its publication, the book has inspired many young Kodavas to return to their roots explore their culture and heritage.
In December 2021, Kaveri presented a seminal paper, as the keynote speaker, at Ainmanes of Kodagu, Past, Present and Future, a seminar held by the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy. Her paper, Ainmanes of Kodagu, Context and Continuity which provided rich and new perspectives on the evolution and role of the ancestral home, ainmane, was extremely well received, and translated into Kodava takkë by the Academy.
Working in collaboration with BP Appanna, a well-known Kodava poet, Kaveri has translated a selection of 21 of his poems into English, and simultaneously provided a transliteration of the work using Roman script. A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu, was published in 2022. The book captures the essence of Kodava ethos and the historic spirit of land, the English translation opening up the work to a wide readership and the transliteration providing the Kodava diaspora an entry into written works in their own language. Kaveri was awarded the Gaurava Puraskara by the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy for her extensive research and documentation of Kodava history and culture in 2021.
Having spent over 15 years researching her first book in the villages of Kodagu, her interest in the local cuisine and how it evolved deepened. The Coorg Table ™ , her blog on the cuisine of Coorg was begun in 2012, inspired by a lifelong interest in food—Kodava cuisine in particular. Kaveri has trained chefs, held Kodava food festivals, and lectured and demonstrated to the students of the prestigious Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development, Delhi. “Through my blog”, she says, “I reach out to readers, chefs and home cooks across the world, inviting them to explore the cuisine of this small but distinctive culture”. She draws on her background in literature and anthropology to inspire her writing adding: “I am fascinated by the history of food and particularly interested in the cultural context of food.” Kaveri is currently working on a Kodava cookbook. She is considered an authority on Kodava cuisine and culture.