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of political candidates, good only for goats to chew on, have been revitalised; mould has been scrubbed away and been replaced by murals, artist graffiti and bold colours.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.
Yachts are small things where space is at a premium; libraries take up a lot of room, so I have to swap and donate as I travel. This novel has been the hardest to give up. I’ve lent it and recommended it to anyone who wants to talk books or India. I’ve written about it, reviewed it and referenced it.
A Fine Balance has left the boat. But it will always be with me.
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.
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.
A wide and well-tended path stretched upwards to the main group of buildings. We had walked into another country: there were no plastic bottles, crisp wrappers, bright blue tangles of frayed nylon rope, plastic bags, sweet wrappers, turds or stinking puddles anywhere. Just nice green grassy borders either side of the well-trodden path, and a hand-built wooden stairway.
The vendor wanted ten rupees (about 12p) for a gloopy crimson drink in a hastily wiped glass. In a nod to hygiene the sidekick wore a grubby cloth tied round his head, but over his sweat stained shirt a grimy woollen vest was streaked with Jackson Pollock stains. After nine hours of almost uninterrupted walking […]