Keoladeo to Kochi and Intrepid TravelDecember 11, 2018 in India ⋅ 🌫 26 °C
We piled in the car for one last five hour drive with Laxman Singh from Iora Guest House to the Delhi Airport. Stopped for coffee at a modern shop by the side of the highway. The photo below was taken from our seats in the place. Can't get much more direct cause and effect than that. Open sewer from the Café runs right into the vacant lot next door which is filled with garbage from the same establishment. On the flight over I'd read about the contradiction between holding the Ganges river sacred as the mother of life, yet polluting it to unheard of levels. There are groups trying to make the connection and publicize the worst offenders. All the while we're driving through a thick haze of Delhi air in a diesel powered sedan and about to board a flight to the south of India. Can't get much more direct cause and effect than that...
In the airport the family messed around with the massage chairs in the lounge for a bit while I knocked back a whiskey on ice before the flight. Sanju picked us up at the Kochi Airport and drove us into town. He was pretty proud of his home state of Kerala. Talked about the recent monsoon floods leading to 100,000 displaced people and 500 dead if one includes those still missing. Said the recovery was going well, but tourism was down. A big problem for a state with no manufacturing. He noted that the state was run by the first democratically elected Communist government. Their rule for the past decades has lead to the highest literacy rate in India.
Kochi is a pretty chill town. Intrepid Travel, the company we're traveling with, arranged a tour. The guide, Peter, explained that Kochi's history as a port city on the Malabar coast goes back thousands of years. Jews first arrived following the second burning of the temple in Jerusalem in 79ce. Another wave came through in the time of the Inquisition, but they didn't worship with or intermarry with the first group. Jew Town has the oldest continuing active synagogue in the Commonwealth. In more recent centuries it was colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. Their architecture abounds. Lots of small shops, restaurants, and cafés. Art murals can be found all around the city.
The guide went into a long statement about the effects of the Swiss reformed church in the area. They went to great lengths to deconstruct the caste system that had been introduced to the South from Northern India around 1000ce. They used a land tax system to make it too expensive for large feudal land owners to hold their land and incentivized its transfer to the small farmers who'd been working the land. The Reformed church also introduced schooling for all, including untouchables, which further eroded the caste system. He described the multireligious, multi economic, multi cultural tolerance that the area is known for.
Greater Malabar is even more ancient. Dawn of human civilization stuff. Hunter-gatherers beachcombed from the African Rift Valley along the Indian Ocean coast until they reached a place of such abundance that they stopped. Kerala. It is the source of civilization in India. I learned that Brahmins pass mantras on to their sons when they reach the age of manhood. Linguists have studied these chants and found no connection to any known language. The closest correlation they can find is to birdsong. The assumption is that the mantras have been passed down since before humans took up language.
This afternoon Augie and I took a walk along the waterfront where we met up with several pilgrims who had left their village to do a pilgrimage to the holy sites of South India. Jevesh said that every few years he goes on a pilgrimage with the other men from his village. Usually in December and January. He told us a story about an ailing queen who was tricked into sending her second born son into the wilderness to get tiger's milk to heal her ills. The boy came back riding a tiger. The father then recognized the son's divinity.
This evening we took in a traditional dance exhibition. Tomorrow we're off to the mountains.Read more