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jeudi 2 avril 2015

Train Journeys: Cochin to Observation

The train is called SuperFast which is a relative term here, instead of taking 12 hours to cover 560 km, today they would do it in ten hours and a bit not taking into account the unforeseeable delays.
The coach is air conditioned and there is a general silence of acceptance of the passengers who are mainly people returning home or college students going to school. I imagined a more festive atmosphere of a holiday weekend but , everyone, including me is mindful of the train, as it chugs along, from village to village.
Parti Comunista flags fluttering in the morning breeze in Cochin
It is hard to leave Kerala. No one has to inform you that you have left Kerala, you can just look outside and see that you have left Kerala. Gone are the luscious scenery, waterways, the look of impending rain and the graceful movements of people

As soon as we entered Tamil Nadu, the trees became skeletal, without the green top so often seen in Kerala. The population had become gaunt, the gracefulness taken away from them, they move about as if they are inn mourning for something or other.
Dont expect much to happen on a hot morning until a few minutes before the train leaves

The train is cutting through the still of the hot days of southern India.
Every few minutes vendors from the pantry train pass through, shouting their wares, as you can imagine what quality they are offering. I decided not to eat anything but wait till I get to Bangalore for a proper meal.

When we crossed into Karnataka, the scenery had a resemblance, albeit a poorer one, to Kerala, few more coconut trees appeared, not like the stark talipot palms of Tamil Nadu. The earth is still dry, even the hills are barren proudly showing their rocky formations. I am amazed that not too many people are about, neither at stations we stopped by or in the villages we are passing through. You get the feeling that once you leave cochin, you leave diversity behind, the houses are built as if it was some after thought of someone, architecturally nothing is attractive to look at as we pass through, after all the only houses we would be seeing would be the villages near the railroad tracks and perhaps they arose out of necessity during the colonial times when the tracks were laid.

I felt a great sense of nostalgia. There was some sense of belonging in Fort Cochin, all of a sudden it is as if your identity is in question, you are liminal once again, waiting for the familiar welcome of the Qatar Airways staff from various countries. Those middle eastern airlines are a good metaphor for this statelessness.. Apart from the name, every one of the employees is also temporarily stateless.
I have a flight from Doha to Chicago but I would love to fly directly to Miami from Doha… it is a longer flight but at least I will be getting off the sound of Cuban Spanish and cortaditos waiting for me at the familiar cafes.. And a sister who would prepare the best Lebanese food…the generic genetic food of Jews from that region.

I met a lot of nice and nicer people in Fort Cochin on this visit..
A very busy time but very fulfilling, something that would keep my soul warm during the coming days of travel and change of sceneries.. From India, covered and transported in the middle eastern veil of internationality to Miami and then on to the Indians… they will bring back my balance, very quickly..
In each of these places, when I am there, it is as fi the other places do not exist. My ten days in Fort Cochin, I was not thinking of my other lives very much, even though I was longing for some individuals, because of special bonds.
So when I am with American Indians, the non-Indian world does not exist; same in Cuba, I very seldom think of the world outside Cuba, except when writing post cards to friends in faraway countries.
It is the liminal period, when you are neither there nor here, transporting yourself from one familiar place to another, through unfamiliar scenery and feelings.
I enjoy this anonymity of liminal periods but the solitude enhances the longings. Right now I was thinking of Bruxelles and what time is it there? What is happening to people, to whom I am more than a post card or a trinket with different noise or a fragrance? And in La Habana, where affections wait for me like an unending bakery of delights..
In moments of liminality such as this, it is better not to think to make decisions, but be mindful of the feelings..
The sweet faces of people I met in Fort Cochin, some so sweet that your feelings vibrate with innocence. People who go out of their way to complete circles of conversation, and most importantly I felt that in Fort Cochin, from Inn Keepers to Historians to waitresses at elegant restaurants, they had no hidden agenda.. They were going about their lives, but adding a little bit of glitter to yours, by sharing some innocent human emotion.
Love, affections, hugs and kisses await.. But I shall wait for the monsoon to pass, as well as the hurricanes in Cuba to simmer down, and once again I will call up Qatar Airways..
I wonder whether you can accommodate me on a flight to Cochin connecting in Doha?

The answer, I am sure, would be YES.. leave Miami connect in Doha and a short flight to Cochin, arriving  as the sun dusts off the chill of the night on the heads of coconut trees..
a plaque on a long abandoned synagogue in Jew Town, Cochin