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by SS at 2:29 am on Friday 4th December

My flight from Goa to Cochin was mildly eventful. I was much ridiculed by the astrologer in Pallolem for flying instead of taking the convenient and simple train ride, to my defense, I plead ignorance. While the train pretty much travels in a straight line, the flight involves transfers to an airport some distance away from both airports and a stop over in Bangalore.

Bad weather to Bangalore held up our plane and we spent four hours waiting in the considerably dull Goa departure lounge, distracted only by the supply of free samosas at the airline's expense. It seems the karmic law of the universe had not fully satisfied itself and the south Indian thali I ate the night previously caused severely painful acid reflux, to the point where I spent most of those four hours sitting doubled over. Naturally, my medication was locked inside my checked in bag.

Once the plane was underway, it was a pleasant trip to Bangalore (where they had held up the ongoing plane just for us) and then Cochin. The taxi ride from the airport to Ernakulam, a large town in Cochin, was reminiscent of my initial bus ride through South Goa; beautiful scenery surrounded the taxi whichever way you looked out of the window. The terrain was markedly different though, adding large patches of water to the green leafy vegetation of further north. These are, of course, the popular Kerala backwaters.

Ernakulam was a relatively mediocre place for a tourist, lacking much to see and being a typically bustling (and hence gratingly unfriendly) Indian town. To its merit though, the food was the cheapest that I have eaten yet in India - an accolade not to be taken lightly, given the generally low cost of filling your stomach elsewhere.

My hotel was a pleasant cottage affair which was attached to a restaurant. The room itself was one of the nicest I had stayed in and I elected to save money on the rate by foregoing air conditioning. In the end though, I spent a considerably quantity of time in the room and the heat sapped my productivity.

Breakfast each day was usually whatever they had prepared, which for reasons unknown to me, changed daily. In any case, it was delicious - chapatis one day, parathas the next (which are called parottis everywhere there for some reason) and a dosa the next. This would all typically be accompanied by some variety of curry. Yum.

Dinner was also authentically south Indian - dosas, idli and vegetable noodles (well, perhaps not so authentic). In my quest to cool my body temperature, I walked the street to find a milkshake or similar (a particular favourite beverage group of mine). To my great joy, there was a restaurant not ten metres from my hotel which had an extensive menu of lassis and shakes.

After ordering and grumbling about the 3 rupee surcharge on take out orders, I casually observed the sweet lassi being made. As he added all the usual ingredients, my mouth watered with keen anticipation. Just before he was about to mix it, alarm bells went off in my head as he took what appeared to be a child's beach spade and shovelled a large quantity of curious looking powder from a bucket into the blender.

My fears were confirmed when he told me that the bucket contained sugar. As I gingerly sipped the drink, my thoughts wandered to the, now likely, onset of Type 1 diabetes. A quick mental walk down a chain of logic later and I concluded that 'hey, I'm in India, not going to get such drinks back home'. So if you catch me drinking a lassi at home, remind me of this story.

I spent a day in Cochin on a government run backwaters tour which consisted of painfully slow cruising down peaceful canals filtering through various villages in the Kerala countryside. It was a curious sight to see and reflected a lot of the backdrop in the Malayalam film I saw in Goa. After lunch we took a houseboat to various islands, snapping some unoriginal but spectacular regardless photos. From the description our guide gave us, it seemed that the majority of Kerala's income derives from the coconut tree or many derivative products of the coconut tree.

The next day I took the ferry to Fort Cochin, a considerably more tourist oriented area. Queuing for a 2.5 rupee ferry ticket was far more stressful than it should have been, perpetuated by the insistence of the ticket seller to only sell tickets for five minutes before the imminent departure of a ferry. Arriving just after a ferry had left the jetty, I found myself near the front of the quickly growing queue for the next ferry, suffering from all the usual discomforts of queueing in India.

A ticket later, I boarded the ferry, taking care not to touch any of the rusty exposed metallic surfaces (although my tetanus shot should have allayed any fears). As we approach the Fort Cochin jetty, it was necessary to breath in through my mouth as the vast amount of algae growing on the surface of the water immediately surrounding the island emitted the most unpleasant odour.

I walked first to the chinese fishing nets, curious contraptions which line the sea front of the island. It was here that my paan craving (which hadn't been satisfied for a day previous when the combination of a Muslim festival and the paan sellers only being Muslim had basically halted the supply of paan) drove me to request a meetha paan from a stall near the nets. This paanwala did not seem to think it was possible to make a paan without supari and I was much disappointed with the resulting leaf filled with paste and little else.

Walking onwards, I was repeatedly bothered by an auto driver who would not accept that I wanted to walk around Fort Cochin on my own. After about twenty minutes of walking around lackadaisically and repeatedly asking him to 'go away', he finally departed. As I explored the narrow streets and gazed upon the ancient churches, I wandered into a bookshop and picked up a copy of the Upanishads, on the advice of my friend the astrologer. This will hopefully be the first step to understanding the nature of Vedic spirituality.

A relatively expensive lunch later, I headed to Jewtown, and was much in awe of the variety and calibre of the articles in all the various antique shops. Unfortunately the synagogue was shut but I was able to get a feel of the place. After picking up a small metal elephant as a gift (and not being able to knock more than 10% off the price - those sellers stick to their guns!), I grabbed an auto to take me back to the ferry jetty.

The roads in Fort Cochin are fairly average sized and you would only just able to fit two cars side-by-side. As the rickshaw puttered down Bazaar Road, we came to an abrupt halt. Peering out from under the canopy, I noticed a large load bearing truck parked on the side of the road. Immediately next to it was a similarly sized truck trying to get past. The driver was yelling at the pedestrians near the parked truck to move it forwards, while the pedestrians assured the driver he could safely pass.

Lots of shouting later and this truck passed with what must have been mere atoms of free space. Assuming that this was the only truck foolish enough to come this way, I was shocked when I saw yet another truck move forward to try and negotiate the constricted section of road, behind it were at least another four trucks. At this point my driver admitted defeat and turned the rickshaw in search of an alternative route.

3 comments posted so far
Moosra wrote at 2:08 pm on Fri 4th Dec -
Type 2 Diabetes, not type 1.

YES finally the biomedroy strikes back with pendanticism to match SS' compsci fervour.
HRL AA wrote at 4:29 pm on Fri 4th Dec -
You pedantic roys!
SS wrote at 10:25 pm on Fri 4th Dec -
Damn, you're right. I got confused - oh well, good to know this for when it does eventually catch me.

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"Our thoughts define our reality." - Anon.