Thursday, December 17, 2015

What to do in Kochi? - Fishing Nets, Shopping and Food

I reach the Kochi railway station, later in the afternoon. I am staying with another high school friend here. He studies at a local college and is from the same city. It is such a blessing to have close friends all around the country. Paying for a hotel room, would be way out of my budget. A few policemen see me walking out of the station with my bags. I catch their stare and they call me towards them. They tell me to place my bags down and to open the bag up. I am a little confused, but do as I am told. 

Then I realize what they are looking for? They thought I was a drug loaded hipster. Such a compliment. They thought I was a badass. I was a hipster, unshaven, week old shirt. But I expected checks like these. I didn't carry intoxicants around. Also why is somebody that is not dressed well, a bad person? Some of the nicest people, I have met over the past year had tattoo's on their foreheads. It is like judging a book by its cover. Such a yucky proposition. I look down and they are done checking my bags. The cop says something in malayalam and lets me go. I need to learn some malayalam soon. I walk into a restaurant nearby and have some traditional lunch there.

My friend turns up a while later. It is good to meet him again. We catch a bus to his district. We were quite close in high school. We met up at parties and friends homes after school. But we mostly got to spend time with each other, at school during the breaks, or while organizing school events together. I mean you don't have too much free time at when you are a student growing up. Why? You have a full time job. To give exams well and to do well in teenage social circles. It is not an easy job. Eight hours of school everyday. Then you sleep for another eight hours. Then you have meals, travel and family. By the end of the day, you may have barely two - three hours to yourself. That is not too much time.

The 150 People You Know 
Robert Dunbar, the british anthropologist, through his work in the 1990's proposed a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. From his study of primate brain structure and behavior, he came to the conclusion, that humans can only comfortable maintain 150 stable relationships.

150 stable relationships. I don't even know if I have ten stable relationships. 150 is way beyond my capacity. We catch up on each other's lives. The normal stuff for a 19 year old. College is doing okay. Family is fine. Working on one or two cool projects. Yes, you have a life, if these things are checked out. He stays in the countryside and it is quite far away from the center of the city. So we decide to spend the day in Kochi and return back home in the night. That way we don't have to come travel back to the city the next day. We dump my bags at one of his friend's homes and then just walk around the city. Kochi was the centre of the world spice trade for many centuries. The existence of natural harbors was an important reason for this. The shops that we pass by include, spice stores, textile stores, artifact shops among other. It is indeed a very beautiful city. There are graffiti paintings on the walls. I see a Dali artwork of the man with a big pointy mustache on one wall. We stop at a cafe and drink some water. Yeah, it is kind of weird to do that. But this was some exquisite sort of water. I don't know where they got if from. But it was some magic spring, and it was served in a glass bottle. It tasted better, with all the added information that my friend told me about what I was drinking. We then walk towards the famous old fishing nets of Kochi, kerala. It is quite the sight seeing fishermen do their work with this ancient technique. Then you suddenly see a modern fishing boat that passes by, with bags of fish on its deck. Modern and traditional techniques exist side by side here. They both had their place. We catch another bus to Mattancherry. I love Mattanchery. There is so much life, in the real sense there. The market is buzzing with noise of trade conversations and there is a background noise of boats and their engines starting. Every shopkeeper invites you into his store with this statement

'Hello sir, Good price. Best price. Come see. No Price for seeing. We visit the renowned Mattancherry Palace and the Paradesi Synagogue and then spent some more time walking around the beautiful streets of this coastal city. I would have loved to explore each shop. But I could not by anything. That was a ground rule. Your bag is heavy. You cannot pick up things along the way. More weight is not good. You will fall down sideways if it becomes too heavy. But I wish shopkeepers in stores around the world, were not so intimidating. I mean just leave me alone already. This is my consumer ego talking here. I just want to see what you have on sale. Maybe I don't want to buy it yet. But you never know. Because if I find something that really interests me, I may just buy something. But if I don't look, I will not even consider buying anything. It scares me, when you are always asking me questions and selling me stuff, when I am in the vicinity of your store. Things and opinions would be very different if I owned this shop. I guess my shopkeeper ego would come into place then. I am thirsty. Man! It is hot in Mattancherry. There is a roadside shop selling drinks and samosas. They have this drink called a Ja ljeera soda. I thought the meaning of the name of the drink was, 'The Elixir of Life'. So I order it without thinking too much. I need all the life I can get. It is so good. The shopkeeper serves it chilled. I order three or four more. Now I am Hercules.

We take the evening ferry back to Kochi to collect my luggage. We then catch a bus to his home, in the countryside. People are returning back home from work, so the buses sure are crowded. We jump into one of the buses. I follow him, I don't know where we are going. Fortunately, the two people have to get down at the same stop. We are near the empty seats, so we settle down. A little while later the bus stops at a busy station. I have a big bag placed next to me, on the aisle. I save my bag in the nick of time. I would have lost it. People are squished next to each other in the aisle, in the next few minutes. We continue the conversation with my ten kilogram bag on my lap. I can only see sideways, my front vision is blocked.  We leave the urban landscape, half an hour into the ride. The countryside roads, look beautiful, on this hot summer afternoon. Lakes and rivers on both sides of the road. Bungalows, huts and ration shops spread out in from of you. Cranes catching fish for lunch in the distance. It is such a visual experience, being in this environment. We reach my friend's home an hour later. I meet his family and other relatives there.  The day comes to an end with a delicious meal and interesting conversation with my friend’s family. Oh! How I wish more days of my life were like this!


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