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dimanche 9 avril 2017


The heat has been relentless,I was told, so I wanted to make the best of the early morning hours by going by to the backwaters/arabian sea confluence this morning.
The first stop was Elite eatery, something which has been there as long I can remember, the grumpy but reasonably friendly owner giving you a reluctant greeting. There is a high turnover of waiting staff at this place, whose customers are mainly Indian tourists visiting this city, with an occasional foreigner thrown in.
Today my waiter was Assamese, he had the oriental features of the North Eastern Indians and he looked distinct from the Nagas who also come down here. He is a from a town one hour away by bus from Gauhati in Assam, it all appeared to me from rather surreal.
Are you from outside, he questioned and his curiosity ending there.
The owner offered me an English newspaper, Keralites are very educated and well informed, I noticed that the owner had two english and two local language newspapers in front of him, not an unusual occurence around here.
One items of great anthropological interest caught my attention.

This topic: non european racism is very seldom discussed but any traveller to India, Malaysia, Japan, Namibia, South Africa, Jamaica among other countries know and can experience this sort of racism. It had been powerless since the populations in questions did not have economic power of discriminations and as things change, non-european racism is raising its ugly head. Move on, man!
My breakfast this morning consisted of Appams with vegetable stew and a milky tea (the cost was 90 INR, less than usd 1.5 with the change of 10 inr handed over to  the smiling assamese).
Then a slow saunter on Princess street on to the Chinese Fishing Nets.
The numbers of these fishing nets are in decline, they have become tourist curiosities rather than livelihood for the local fisherman, who now go out on their outboard boats far into the sea and at this time of the morning, locals gather to buy what is left of the fresh fish.
Chinese Fishing Nets are a reminder of that great Admiral,Zheng He, who made four visits to this port city, long before the europeans knew of the sear route to India.

One of the fishing nets was active this time of the day and it is fascinating to watch the contraption moving up and down like a giant sea monster to bring out the meager catch each time it is dipped into the currents of this merging sea and backwaters.
Pablo Neruda would have found better words of poetry to describe its motion, I had to be content with the sensation of being part of a long drawn history of this ancient port.

Today being Sunday these thoroughfares would be crowded with visitors mostly Indians who wade into the sea fully clothed and a smattering of western visitors visibly uncomfortable in this unforgiving heat.
Even though I have seen the monuments hundreds of times, I wanted to look at them again and remind myself of the history of this interesting nook of the world.
Rescued while embellishing the port of cochin, this remnant of a temple may have housed the Buddhist practitioners when there was a large chinese community by the river banks of Kalvatty. The earliest edifice of the church was also lost in fire and floods and some remnants were found in the bottom of the backwaters.
Walking along the Princess street, with open eyes, one comes across architectural wonders, the cultural combinations of builders over the centuries. For the first time today I saw this decaying old building and once again I saw the walkway from the Koder House towards the Mikvah, which reminded me a bit of the bridge of sighs in Venice.

Past the curious eyes of young Kashmiri adept at seperating a few rupees from the unsuspecting tourists who think of them as locals, past the school and on to the Basilica, busy at all hours of the day, especially today with people carrying with them palm fronds celebrating Palm Sunday.
Old ladies in neat colourful sarees, younger ones in non descript long shirts and trousers and children in european attires were milling around, most of them had a palm frond in hand.
I remember seeing a tablet with an old malayalam script around here and I went in search of it, only to find yet another column, no doubt raised from the bottom of the port, dedicated to the memory of someone or other. Looking closely i could detect many tombstones with obituaries in portugese.

by this time, while still early, sweat was pouring out, i made my way safely to the air conditioned comfort of Niyati Boutique Hotel in Queros street in Fort Cochin!