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jeudi 22 février 2018

FROM ISRAEL TO COCHIN DAY 1

 I am comfortable with taking serpentine airline connections for the fun of it, but from Israel to Cochin has to be a classic one. Royal Jordanian from Tel Aviv to Amman, an incredibly short flight to cross the cultural and economic divide, then a shorter than expected hop on a Royal Jordanian Boeing 787 to Doha: with its glitter and glamour of possibly the best airport in the world, along with wonderful staff at Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge, a very long layover. A sweet flight of 4 1/2 hours on Sri Lankan to Colombo and another long wait, at this time at their Serendib Lounge, with very spicy curries even at that hour. Another 30 minutes ferried me across to Cochin, where the arrival formalities were prompt.
I left my friends in Haifa, after a delightful lunch at Shany Cafe, founded in 1926, caught a train at Haifa Centre-HaShmona, changing to a bus at Netanya to the Ben Gurion Airport. I had caught the 2 35 pm train. on a Monday.
 The flight from Colombo arrived at Cochin International at 8 45 am on Wednesday! A direct flight from TLV, saudi arabian air space permitting would take no longer than 6 hours.. but who would want to miss the lax atmosphere of the Queen Alia airport and its Crown Lounge with its terrible tasting Sauvignon Blanc and or the wonderful experience of being attended to by friends at Hamad International and Al Mourjan at Doha? Not to mention the hot curries of Bandaranaike Airport?
As the Backwaters came into view, the heart felt very soothed.
 Soon the UBER driver arrived, like most of his contemporaries he spoke no English (while many people in Cochin speak good English), so the imposed silence was welcome for me to enjoy the scenery and what was going on around me, from which I felt very detached. 
Felt a sense of familiarty as the car passed over the bridge to Fort Cochin, built by Sir Rober Bristow . A new port was opened on 25 May 1928! 
Bristow's audacity is still felt in Fort Cochin, and I have the pleasure of staying at his house which now houses one of the best hotels in Fort Cochin, Bristow Lighthouse Hotel.
Sir Robert enjoyed narrating a story which is easily identifiable with the philosophy of his life. Bristow used to say:
"I love the reply of the French Minister to a queen of long ago:
Madame, if it is only difficult, it is already done; if it is impossible, it shall be done.''
 The first visit of the day was to the IDIOM bookstore, and a chat with the resident manager who brings to attention recently published books. On my last visit, I was recommended to buy ALIYAH by Seethu, a socioanthropological novel about the lives of the Malabari Jews of Cochin
 A short walk away is the small restaurant where my Bhutanese friend works. it was good to see him and also partake in a bowl of Lamb Biryani
 Fort Cochin is an abundant source of human labour and intellect to the Gulf Region, so there is an influx of people from other parts of India, the Northeastern Sister states as well as some neighbouring countries to fill the gap. My friend above is a Hindu Bhutanese.
Aarthi is a young tribal girl from Rajasthan whom I befriended a few years ago. She makes jewellery and sells them on the sidewalk. She rushed back to her pavement stall when her mother informed of my arrival, modelled a bracelet I had in mind for a friend from China, A. 
 Since my last visit was just two months ago, and I have repeatedly visited this quiet part of Cochin many a times, a lot of the shopkeepers and stall keepers and vendors greeted me and in a way I felt ridiculous that I live so far away and so different a life from them, but accorded such a warm welcome
Perhaps why, I return here, along with the sentiment of calm I feel in this place
 This is a well known corner of the Fort Cochin tourist area, known as the Princess Street. Alas the tourist influx has brought in traders from Punjab who are cunning and greedy and dishonest and many a tourist falls for their fictitious wares. To me the tourists are welcome but these touts are not.
 I wanted to send Kerala outfits to the daughters of my friends in Haifa, so that they can use it part of the outfit for the upcoming PURIM celebrations. The tailor and his assistant greeted me eagerly and transactions were carried out in a pleasant manner. I also wanted to get a nice scarf for my Cuban Mother.
 As the sun sets a large crowd of Indians gather at the seashore and the cacophony adds to the serenity of the sun sinking down into the Arabian Sea.
 A huge cruise  dwarfs the cochin port scenery as it exits the Port channel. (which was formed in 1341 CE after a cataclysmic event)

Chinese fishing nets, came in with that greatest Chinese Navigator of all times, Zheng Ho/ Cheng He on his voyages to Cochin in the 15th Century.
Fort Cochin closes early, so i rushed for a small plate of Curry and Paratta. 
Walked slowly back to the hotel, caressed by the winds from the Arabian Sea.
In 1428 CE, Abraham Ben Yiju, a Tunisian jew who came to these shores as a trader, might have made this journey over the course of weeks. 
It took me less than two days
But the excitement is very similar!
In more than what seems a coincidence (American Indians do not believe in concidences, they say things occur and you are not smart enough to figure out why?)
He invited me to join the Shabbat prayers as well as the dinner which will feature some cochini dishes (betraying their middle eastern connections) Pastel, Kubbeh. Ha! I do remember, I have a bottle of wine my family in Haifa gave me. You see, everything is related, as American Indians would say: Mitakuye Oyasin