The Immigration and Customs at Cochin International Airport was a breeze and the new terminal was shining and with a new Sim card and the Uber driver at the ready, I was soon off to Fort Cochin.
Suddenly I realized that I am very very happy, content to be here, to this land to which I hold no attachment. There is something in the ambiance of Fort Cochin that I like, which I shared with my brother Eliyahu one year ago and hope to share it with Mordecai and family soon enough!
Niyati boutique hotel in Quieros Street in the heart of tourist Fort Cochin is a well designed hotel/homestay with some very nice touches and owned and operated by a delightful Malayalee, Joseph, who had spent some time in Australia.
He was waiting with his wife and two kids and we had a nice reunion. I have been a regular at his hotel ever since it opened a few years ago.
I was feeling a little peckish and why not try something or other from this great granary of cuisine of Kerala. I walked towards a simple restaurant called Lucky Star and was happy to see my friend Sanjan, a Hindu from Bhutan there. He organized a nice hot Paratta with spicy vegetable curry, which tasted so good.
There are lots of young immigrant men workers here in Cochin as most of the young Cochin men are working in the Gulf States and there is a true shortage of skilled and unskilled labour in Cofhin. This young man was making Paratta and it tasted just delicious.
After the late lunch, it was already close to 4 pm and I had been reading a book while sitting in this utilitarian cafe (in Indian English, these are referred to as Hotels), I stopped to stock up on some bananas and then on to my favourite pharmacy store: Taras Medical, where I have been a regular customer even when it was owned by someone else. The new owner is very endearing and he was genuinely happy to see me and he came over to shake my hands, He also filled me in on the Pharmacy scene in Cochin and in India, the restrictions and laws and bureaucracy.
The Ticuna tribe along the Colombian Amazon had given me a list of medications they neede, simple medications and I thought I would use my connections with Tara medicals to fulfill that. A strange world and magical .. Here I am, a jewish doctor buying medications from a Christian pharmacist in Kerala, India to take to the Ticuna speaking Indians along the Amazon River!
Walking towards where the backwaters meet the Arabian Sea, it was just magical. The festive atmosphere, decorations and colours everywhere and people enjoying themselves. A great sense of comraderie.
I was so happy to see my tribal friends and they both smiled with recognition. It thrills me to make this human contact with indigenous people and they conveyed to me, in their broken English that they had returned to their land for a while and now back here for another season of selling the merchandise which they make themselves. They rent a room of some sorts nearby and display their wares constantly creating something or other.
I thought of all those I could buy these things as gifts, the list is rather long but it gave me such a fantastic sense of satisfaction, to be able to take handmade bangles and ear rings from these indigenous people! Even before I asked, she began discounting her price for me, in the end I am sure I will end up buying lots of bangles and ear rings for Omaha Indians and my new friends in Minnesota and also my dear friends in Cuba who would be excited to have these unusual objects.
The shabbat was setting in. At one time, long before I was associated with Cochin, this house which was owned by the most prominent Jewish merchant of that time, Samuel Koder, would be full of jewish and non jewish guests celebrating the well known camaraderie and tolerance which mad Cochin famous.
I greeted a few merchants who eke out a living from the tourists, mainly Indian tourists, and they were perennially complaining about how the business had declined ever since the Tsunami... that was 14 years ago.. I walked along the waterfront and then returned to the hotel to look at the bounty from the short jaunt.
Mr Walton is an erudite inn keeper and as soon as I entered his office to greet him, he began talking about a new book published in translation from Malayalam about a last Jew in the village around here, the book is called Aliyah.
I had no trouble finding it at the Idiom Bookstore
I was thinking of my good cuban friends: so stocked up on creames and lotions and incense to take with me when I would be going back there within the month.
It was time to welcome the Shabbat. I felt extremely content to be singing Lechah Dodi at the dining room of this hotel, where the workers had no idea of what i was doing, and I felt connected to my family of the Jewish people in Australia, Israel, Europe, US, Cuba and the Americas...
I felt very close to my family
my brothers in Portland and Miami
Api Pes Konea
my dearest Cuban friends
and the newest of my friends..