mardi 16 août 2016
MEET THE JOLLY HISTORIAN OF FORT COCHIN
GEORGE THE JOLLY HISTORIAN OF FORT COCHIN
As he drove me towards Fort Cochin, after his busy day at work as a dentist, my friend assured me: you will enjoy meeting George.
As we entered his home, George apologized, “it is our family tradition to meet for prayers at 8 pm”. Christians in this part of the world observe a shorter lent at this time of the year, in honour of Mary.
Our conversation immediately launched ourselves into the depths of the rich history of Fort Cochin. A history professor in the past, this polite and erudite displayed his knowledge with ease. There is something very Jewish about him, I said to myself.
He talked about Hannah, his great grandmother who had moved into this house in 1885. The house had been built by the Portuguese in 1660, just three years before they were ousted out of Fort Cochin by the Dutch. G is married to Maria, well known in the tourist circles of Fort Cochin for her delightful cookery classes.
He then began telling me of his Jewish connection. I have come to expect Jewish connections among the established Christian families but this jolly historian had all the facts at his fingertips.
His great grandmother Hannah was Jewish, she married his great grandfather who was Christian. They had two daughters, by our law considered Jewish. One of them kept her faith and the other who was his grandmother, followed the Christian faith married his grandfather and the Christian lineage continued of which he is the product. So he has an entire Jewish family on one side. In fact his father would be considered Jewish by our law and many Jewish communities would accept him as well, as Jewish. So my intuition about this intelligent historian was right!!
His Jewish side has/d some prominent members and some groundbreaking marriages. Ruth, his grandmother’s sister had married Abraham Barack Salem, a prominent member of the so called Malabari Jewish community, civil rights activist, and lawyer. Their son, who recently passed away was married to Rima and their two children, cousins to our Jolly Historian live in Toronto and Vancouver. If I remember correctly it was Balfour Salem, brother to Gumliel who was the first person to marry over the “colour” line to Simmy Koder?
So in the very short time, our conversation took us from the Portuguese occupation of Cochin to the eternal history, in this house built by the Portuguese, where three aficionados of Cochin history had gotten together for a chat: a philosopher dentist, a jolly historian and a visiting anthropologist from Cuba…such is the world we live in now…
Thus a good connection was made. As my friend had assured me earlier, I enjoyed meeting George the jolly historian of Fort Cochin. More time together to come, I am sure, along with some nice Kerala Curry from Maria?