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.
The ill-lit classrooms had no glass in the windows and no plaster on the walls. Unconnected to any source, electricity wires hung like jungle vines from concrete ceilings. The children, crowded behind simple wooden tables, wore neatly pressed uniforms and expressions warm enough to melt a mountain frost.
It’s always hot, and often wet in the tropics. At certain times of the year I really miss England’s seasons. There is no spring in India, the months segue from winter to summer here. Kerala is at its hottest in April and May, when pre-monsoon steamy white heat reduces the tumbling torrent of Cochin’s street-life to a dried up trickle. Tourists are the only fools to go out in the midday sun. Even the mad dogs sleep.
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.
“I am Chella Duri, I come from Tamil Nadu,” translated Saji. “I look after my master’s goats on this land. Now I call them for the night. I sleep here with them.” The goats milled around us, nibbling the wall, the grass, my feet, the path, everything.
Jamie asked what was wrong with his foot.
“I broke it on a stone while climbing.” We could see blood stains on the rag. Jamie wondered why he had not seen a doctor. “I earn 4000 rupees (around £46) a month, and that is all for my family. There is nothing left for doctor.”