My Etihad flight from AUH to COK ( I had connected with a 14 hour flight from ORD) was delightful, with the presence of Khaled, a Palestinian born in Abu Dhabi and Preeti a relatively new FA from Bombay. Arriving at 4 am, I was the first one through Immigration and Customs, which was rather straightforward, compared to the difficulties I had obtaining a visa.
Mr N had sent his driver Philip to pick me up and through the empty streets of that early hour we were able to make good time, I requested Philip that we stop at a road side stall for a cup of tea. Looking around at the buildings showing their age, I felt I was in Rangoon rather than Cochin and the comparison stayed in mind for a while.
On to Cochin Club a venerable institution from yesteryears and staying there brought me back memories of Brunei and other dying colonial times from the past. The rooms were huge, with fitting reminiscent of another time, Nostalgia without sadness. I enjoyed being ensconced in this nostalgia.
A short auto-rickshaw drive brlought me to the offices of Mr N and we had a lovely conversation, first over some fresh juices at the Cafe at Ethnic Passage in Mattancherry, just opposite the Paradesi Synagogue. He took me to the Pavillion Restaurant at Hotel Abad where the lunch of fresh fish, cooked Kerala style in a banana leaf (I thought of the umu in Tokelau Islands where they cook their fish wrapped in banana leaf). The fish was so tender it melted in your mouth along with the appropriate spices. We drove past the Chempitta Palli, a mosque with architecture typical of the sacred in these parts. This mosque was financed by a Jew at that time, showing the ever present harmony with which the various religions coexist here. Visit to the ruins of an old synagogue in Jew Town was sad indeed, but the government has to decide to protect these monuments as the Jewish presence in this land is fading.
Prof Karmachandran from Trichur arrived in the company of local guide Mr Biju Thomas. It is always a pleasure to meet erudite people in Asia, it has a special meaning, weaves you away from the stark reality that surround you. Both these men are very knowledgeable about the sacred monuments of the past and we arranged to visit the Jewish past of this part of the country, Chendamangalam, Parur and Mala. For those interested in a guided tour of Jewish Cochin, Mr Thomas is the person to contact +919833973468
The conversation with these knowledgeable historian and the well informed tour guide/cognizanti reminded of those distant days of my glorious days in Kuala Lumpur in the company of MunChing and Ho and Brijesh
Had Cochin Club had a working wifi I would have stayed on their revelling in its colonial past , but i was so lucky to discover a boutique hotel, something of a novelty here in Fort Cochin, owned by local person who gave up his corporate life in Melbourne to return home to dip in various businesses, while keeping the flame of his desire to do Organic Farming. It was a pleasure to meet him and his wife and I thank him for a nice Lunch at the Pepper House along Kalvathy Road, the Alleppey Fish Curry with rice and some vegies were the right size for a hot a day. During the day I had the chance to meet Mr Walton, who is a walking library, and his busy life is centered around his father's house in Princess Street. Truly a delightful genleman to talk to.
On my way over to Mr N I stopped by the house of Sarah Cohen whom I had met nearly twenty years ago. Taha who manages her affairs was present and he remembered our visits there six and seven years ago. I truly appreciate their remembering us when they have so many people passing through their lives on a daily basis.
When I entered the Niyati Boutique Hotel, I was surprised to see an East Asian face behind the desk who was extremely pleasant and helpful. Imagine my surprise when he told me that he belongs to the Hindu Kiranti tribe people of Bhutan! I was proud to tell him that there are students from Bhutan studying Medicine in Cuba and many of them have already gone back after their graduation, like Dr Suresh Mothey, a Bhutanese of Nepalese origin.
Such is the life of an Anthropologist
Just a few hours in this delightful place woudl enrich your life, if you would permit it.
People who are close to my heart, in Bruxelles, in Miami and in La Habana keep me well alive.. School holidays start in Bruxelles in one week, Pesach would begin in two weeks... this is a jewish holiday where you have to be with your loved ones.. I hope so
Thought of the different places I have spent Pesach and read the Seder
La Habana, Cuba
Lund and Malmo, Sweden
Corpus Christi, Texas
Portland, Oregon, among others..
I am not sure where I would for this coming Seder....