April 19, 2014
We arrived in Cochin (Kochi) on Saturday. Cochin is described as "India Lite" as it is not as crowded, chaotic, or poor as the rest of India. Even so, it was crowded, chaotic, and poor with children and adults employing the hard sell to get anyone to buy whatever they happened to be selling. Cochin was the center of Indian spice trade for many centuries, and was known to the Greeks and Romans as well as to Jews, Syrians, Arabs, and Chinese since ancient times. There once was a thriving Jewish community here but now there are only seven people of Jewish descent. The town is mostly Hindu, some Muslims and some Christians.
India, on first impression, is a land of stark contrasts. The colors are intense with a keen focus on adornment in clothing and house paint, on trucks, tuk tuk's, and shrines.
On the other hand, there is a complete lack of respect for the natural environment - litter is everywhere and vehicles spew pollution into the air already thick with humidity and dust. Houses and buildings are often in a state of construction or destruction; it's hard to tell with the amount of debris strewn around.
And, despite all this, the people are the most welcoming we have encountered. They wave and smile as we drive by. They have the most beautiful children we have ever seen and generously allow us to photograph them, and, much to our surprise, they want to photograph us. In the state of Kerala, tourists are still not that common and we are a large part of the economy.
As a state, Kerala is one of the most prosperous in India. It was colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century and continues to have a higher literacy rate and lifespan than the rest of India.
Unique to Cochin are the Chinese fishing nets that are used to scoop fish up from the bay. This is the only area of the world outside of China where these are used.
Cochin brought us to to a new variation of the sticky index - the post-stick index. This is when you walk around, drip with sweat, get on the bus, cool off, get off the bus, re-stick, etc. it builds up a film of sweat on your skin like you're wearing latex. And, under these circumstances, Some fellow assengers STILL look calm and collected. I, on the other hand, look a mess....red faced, clothes sticking to me in unflattering ways, hair plastered to my skull!