jeudi 2 avril 2015

MALAYALEE MEMORY

I wrote this in 2008!  On my recent visit in March 2015, it was as true as it was before:
The Malayalee Memory or is it everywhere they are
In the course of one day in Cochin, I was greeted by a similar refrain: I remember your face, you have been here before. Perfect strangers!
I can understand the people at the hotel recognizing a guest who has come to the same hotel more than once, but perfect strangers.
Now in Cochin, I use the same adage I use in Cuba, I am not interested in getting to know people who want to know me in the street.
But with a difference! In Cuba, the people who want to know you want to get a dollar out of you, whereas in Cochin, they may be interested in you, for more than just a monetary gain
A banana seller, the pharmacists, the chai maker at the vegetarian restaurant, I can understand, there have been some contact in the past with them, perhaps even more than casually. Bur perfect strangers?
An auto rickshaw driver in front of the hotel: you have stayed at this hotel before; I have seen you in the street?
My usual patent answer, no you have mistaken me for someone else. This is my first time.
Then a waiter at one of the newly constructed “café” near the vypeen ferry comes rushing out: I remember your face, I never forget any faces. As usual my pat answer, you can’t remember me, I have never been here before.
 I greet two or three shopkeepers along the road to the synagogue. I greet them since their greeting is genuine, since they are friends with the cobbler and the tailor (Versace of Cochin). In fact the cobbler will duplicate my shoes!
I went to see a friend of mine, and one of the clerks accompanied me: once again, I have seen you, even though it was two years ago that I had gone to the same office.
Booksellers recognized me, that I take it to be an honour. Bought: Amitav Ghosh’s latest book; Naipaul’s authorized biography; the French translation of Kamala Das My story and another French translation of a Kottayam writer, C Radhakrishnan…
Without asking, he gives me a 10 per cent discount. (IDIOM bookstore)
The “antique’ dealer on the left as you go towards the synagogue, his shop girl, says hello and when I asked for the price of a Mezuzah on sale (these items are becoming a rarity, and very soon un obtainable), he called for the owner, who came over and greeted me like an old friend, and offered a price, 30 per cent cheaper than the one he had given me, one year and half ago. You are a regular customer, so I give you my best price; I agree with him, the price was very good...
HANUKKIA FOR SALE IN COCHIN 2008

THEY ARE NOW IN THE HOUSE AMONG THE UMONHON INDIANS OF NEBRASKA ALONG WITH NATS FROM BURMA (NATS ARE MUCH LIKE BHUTAS OF THE TULA PEOPLE)

The place is crawling with tourists, I can’t say I have a distinct face, but it has something to do with their memory, or is it the fact that I have been here before, or is it the survival acumen that makes their memory sharper?
I had written the above five years ago... and on this visit made me realize that Malayalees are the friendliest INDIANS of India... especially the Malayalees of Fort Cochin...
I also recognized their identity as a Linguistic identity, not a religious one (In South Dakota they would say: I am a Lutheran Christian). It is the language and many times the only one they speak well, and it is theirs, not imposed upon them, ancestrally theirs.
NX JACOB IN 2004. HE DIED A YEAR AGO AGED 91

THE POST CARD SELLER IN 2008

Along the Jew Street, I was once again greeted by the Shoemaker and the postcard seller. It is amazing that in this very busy tourist town, they remember my face, but then again, I may be one of the very few tourists who had traveled to Cochin, around 15 times in 15 years!

I like this familiarity and it endears Fort Cochin to me...
NX SHOP NOW RUN BY HIS SON 

THE FRIENDLY COBBLER OF JEW TOWN