South India. Cochin, Day 2, pt 1

Cochin is old. Very old. That’s what makes it such an absorbing little town. On a bicycle, which is the perfect conveyance for this place, you can amble along at your own pace exploring its nooks and crannies.

Some of the quiet streets are loudly coloured by garishly painted exteriors walls and signs. Other streets are less elaborate — a monochrome of whitewashed walls of old European looking houses. With so many Europeans having made their homes here throughout the centuries, a Jewish enclave in Cochin would not be out of place, which is where I’m headed next.

Jew Town is located along Jew Town Road near the Mattancherry jetty. Not unexpectedly, the synagogue has become a popular tourist sight, complete with stalls hawking trinkets and the like. I push my bike into the pedestrian-only main street for a quick look. Nothing much to see except tourists gawking at the synagogue. Most of the Jewish action must be happening behind closed doors.

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Portrait of the day. A lottery seller plying hope to prospective millionaires.

 

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Rich in years, he agrees with me on the best mode of transport

 

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Poetry on the streets. Even a simple task like sweeping can be graceful. She was fluid with her movements, pirouetting with her broom, almost dancing. She was a joy to watch.

 

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Lost in thought, this trader sitting outside his shop in Jew Town was oblivious to me as I took this shot of him.

 

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Quaint little shops with their quaint wares

 

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An open space, a patch of grass, and the game is on. Actually in India, cricket is not a game, it’s a national obsession. When I was there, World Cup Cricket was in full swing and support for the national team reached a feverish pitch.

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My favourite part Cochin is Fort Cochin. Everyone seems to make a beeline here. There’s a permanent air of festivity to the place. The locals seem to enjoy walking the promenade which extends all the way to Mahatma Gandhi Beach a ways down.

The most striking sight here are the many Chinese nets dotting the shoreline. Strangely unique to Cochin and nowhere else in India, these nets are fully operated by humans, at least half a dozen to each net. They’re a sight to behold when the huge square net is slowly lifted up by a cantilever aided by a counter-balance of rocks tied to the other end of the contraption. The catch, however, is usually modest — a handful of fish and some crustaceans.

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Mahatma Gandhi Beach. Weekend crowds throng the beach from end to end

 

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A peanut seller on the beach

 

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Nuts are simply fried in sand from the beach itself; no oil, no salt, just plain fried delicious peanuts

 

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Once done, the sand is sieved through this strainer. Plenty more sand where that came from…

 

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Only 10 rupees for a handful served in a paper cone. Some minute grains of sand could still be tasted…you know it’s there when you crunch down on them with the peanuts.

 

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Tomorrow, I head north along the coast, starting with a short ferry ride from Fort Cochin to Vypin Island. From there I intend to hug the coast as much as I can, making detours through the backwaters, not just to avoid the busy main roads, but I reckon it will be more fun this way.

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