featured posts

CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD

CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD On my way out of Cuba, from La Habana, on COPA airlines flight to Panama, I w...

mardi 23 février 2016

FORT COCHIN A SPIRITUAL HOME

FORT COCHIN, A SPIRITUAL HOME
Even though Fort Cochin cannot give me the exhilaration of walking along the streets of my neighbourhood of Vedado, in La Habana, it has given me some unexpected gifts on this visit, the most important of which is a sense of spiritual solace.
Spirituality is not about religion. In Cuba, we have realized what American Indians have known for millennia-it is the connection that you make, a universal connection, with all things.

On this visit, I felt I had been able to make that connection, despite the fact that in the last ten years, I had made innumerable visits to this little town, occasionally with friends from Japan and France.
(a coin from Marrakech, minted possibly in Fez by Jewish merchants. the year is AH 1289, 150 years ago. Thoufeek transcribed the writings on the other side, to whom I gave this coin as a remembrance of our friendship).

On this visit, my first for 2016, I felt something congealed, giving me that spiritual solace. In Fort Cochin, I always looked for a place to stay where I felt comfortable, I am sensitive to the negative or positive feelings a hotel or accommodation gives me, the sense of the air and the earth.
 (entrance to Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel)
(during the evenings, the beach in front of the hotel is full of merry makers usually in family groups)

During my weeklong stay, I was at Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel, facing the Arabian Sea, the only one such in Fort Cochin. The ambiance and the attentive staff made history come alive for me: the life and times of Sir Robert Bristow.

This spiritual gift was due to the following 7 people (some with their families)..With whom I was able to spend a little time during my visit, not any particular order, but of some importance to my heart.
 ( a view from his office facing Jew Town Road)
(being an observant syro-malabar christian, he took me to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch)

If I have to name one person whom I look forward to seeing on my visit here to Cochin, is this gentleman, from a distinguished family going back generations, deeply rooted in the land. He bears the name of an illustrious family, which may have been converted from the Jewish population of that time, when St. Thomas visited these shores. He is very kind to me, facilitates connections and always feeds me, food and books, without fail.. Iconsider him my closest colleague in Cochin
After getting to know him, I delved into the illustrious history of ancient Christians of this region, who had been present for nearly the entire length of Christian history, dating back to St Thomas. I am convinced that they are converted Jews from that era. It is interesting to speculate why no one questions the christian presence of nearly 2000 years whereas the Jewish presence is polemic?
 (
(the interior of the Kadavumbagam synagogue in Ernakulam, hopefully the centre of rejuvenation of jewish life in Cochin)
A last Jew bearing an ancient heritage. He has a heavy load on his shoulder, remembering the history of his people, at least written for the past 1100 years but remembered for ever. Was able to spend a fair bit of time with him. A thrilling moment for me was to visit the synagogue of which he is the guardian, now refurbished a little, its magnificence resurrected a little bit, had held a Jewish service first time in 44 years! It is highly unusual for a synagogue given to dust for 4 decades to wake up to the songs and dances of yesteryear.


I had taken a liking to him the very first time I had met him, a history buff who had copied books which had been out of print and we discussed the history of Christian people and the city, a modest man, soft spoken, he revealed his mystic bend and the connections we made on this visit was precious indeed. He had introduced me to the great historian of Fort Cochin and his works, Mr Bernard, and photocopied books which had gone out of print at that time. The afternoon I spent with him, talking about the We are all related concept of the American Indians (Mitakuye Oyasin), was so enriching that walking back to the hotel I felt so ecstatic!

(We will soon see you, in Eretz Israel!)

How can such a small city and the larger city nearby give birth to so many nice people? This couple is just a delight, despite his high civil service position. She exudes warmth and affection, has two delightful young daughters, studious and ambitious. A sheer pleasure to be with them. I consider the young mother to be metaphorically representing the rebirth of the Jewish life and culture in Cochin




As the sun was going down one evening, I ran into this self-taught erudite scholar of Ft Cochin history, especially of the Jews of the Malabar Coast. He is chef by profession and now works in Dubai far away from the land he loves. I encouraged him to delve into the interesting history of the Muslims in this town of such racial harmony. I expect lots of good work from him.

I had met this elderly Jewess, now in her nineties, many moons ago when both her husband, a witty man and a lawyer and her brother who had remained a bachelor were alive. Now frail but kept strong and healthy by the careful attention poured on her by the dutiful Taha and his family. I consider his gestures towards the solitary elderly Jewess worthy of this righteous man.
(I am glad that Thoufeek and Taha are preserving for posterity, the songs and remembrances of a Jewish Past of the Paradesis. you cn watch her reciting morning prayers in this short video,
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcqUVM9Gbj8)

Long last I met a local Foodie, a Christian with interests in Israel and South Africa, a metropolitan with whom one can feel at home. He is well travelled, has an international outlook, and is least “Indian” in his way of thinking.
I am leaving these parts today and I will carry these people in my heart and wait for our next reunion, preferably in Fort Cochin but perhaps in Israel or USA or RSA.
 (remnants of a Buddhist Vihara dredged out of the Cochin Harbour. My friends in Cochin in 2016 display the same kind of universality and religious tolerance of their forefathers: Jews, Christians and Muslims)
 (a moment to reflect the glory of the past and the future to come of this ancient corner of International exchange: Fort Cochin)



I forgive with great charity, the numerous Kashmiri merchants annoying the visitors, the restaurant owners of Ft Cochin who ply their trade in such lower levels so as to tarnish the reputation of Kerala cuisine, the loud and unpleasant Auto Rickshaw drivers trying their best to leech out a few rupees.. Despite all that Fort Cochin remains a charming place and to me, especially after this visit..
(Rafiq the auto rickshaw driver is an exception to the capricious transporters of fort Cochin)
 (a Roystoniea Regia or Cuban Palm in the grounds of the Tripunithura Palace Museum)
 (They have begun to establish a semblance of the Dutch Garden of van Reede, of Hortus Malabaricus fame)
 (while the touristy Fort Cochin has just ordinary food offerings, the non touristy city across the bay, Ernakulam offers the foodie various choices, such as vegetarian Parothas of North India at this busy dive in the city)  Healthy snacks and drinks are available in various locations, I was taken there by a young foodie, humanitarian worker of exceptional promise, Mr P.


A Spiritual Home.. 
Fort Cochin has become that for me..