Cochin (as its inhabitants prefer to call it) is a collection of islands and peninsulas squeezed between the shores of tranquil Vembanad Lake and the Arabian Sea. Each district has a distinct personality, from the colonial trading post of Fort Cochin and concrete towers of Ernakulam, to the sandy beaches of Vypeen Island.
This morning, Nazar brought his whole family to the marina to say goodbye. He has been our constant companion since we arrived in Cochin, taking us on endless shopping trips, keeping us topped up with beer and wine, coming out to the beach at Kuzhipilly with us, and finding parts and services for all our boaty needs. We have eaten in his tiny home on many occasions: fish curry and spicy vegetable dishes cooked by his wife, Sakina, and mother, Beema.
A rare easterly blowing through Cochin this morning has freshened things, brightening colours and tempering Kerala’s humidity. It has lured me from the air-conditioned saloon up into our boat’s cockpit. The breeze brings with it snatches of a lone voice chanting a Malayalam Christmas prayer across the water.
Cochin has the highest density of Christians in India, and is dotted with cathedrals and churches. In a parody of our high streets back home, the roads are rammed with fevered shoppers, their faces consumed with the business of Christmas. The crowd scoops me up and funnels me into an alley, where I bash my ankles on rough wooden nativity scenes strewn along the ground.
Over the past year, the clean-up operation in Fort Cochin has been at fever pitch. Walls covered in peeling posters of political candidates, good only for goats to chew on, have been revitalised; mould has been scrubbed away and been replaced by murals, artist graffiti and bold colours.
The result of all this activity? An enormous, blank(ish) canvas across the city for Indian and international artists to exhibit their work and create site-specific installations. It is crazy, unexpected, colourful and electric: don’t miss it.
I am thrilled to announce that my story, Nazar 72, has been published in Foreign Encounters, the third anthology from Writers Abroad, an online group of ex-pat writers.
Writers Abroad received 231 submissions of which they selected 95 for the anthology. And five of those contributions came from our very own Itinerant Writers Club. Well done to HelenM, HelenW, Bex and Jean for having their pieces published in the anthology too.
Cochin (as its inhabitants prefer to call it) is a collection of islands and peninsulars jammed along the shores of tranquil Vembanad Lake and the Arabian Sea. Each district has a distinct personality, from the colonial trading post of Fort Cochin and concrete towers of Ernakulam, to the sandy beaches of Vypeen Island. A multicultural bubbling hotpot of humanity, Cochin has a place for everyone.
The fella coming up and asking your name simply wants to welcome you to Kerala and talk to a foreigner, especially an English speaker. Jew Street, Muslim Street and Convent Road weave together through the market area, illustrating the easy religious tolerance which characterises this enlightened state.