Wednesday, May 30, 2012
KOCHI, THE QUEEN OF THE ARABIAN SEA; MY HEART IS IN KOCHI
A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books As our plane descended over Kochi, my daughter said "look Papa. solar panels everywhere. The people of Kochi must be energy conscious". I looked down and saw shimmering in the sunlight bright sheets of steel. Later we learned that the roofs of houses in Koch had a sheltered space for drying clothes during the long monsoon season which lasts nearly 4 months. The drive from the airport to Palavivattom where we stayed was thrilling, the road clean and the traffic manageable. We stayed in Hotel Rennai Cochin, a well maintained hotel will all modern amenities. Of all the cities that I have visited, I think Kochi is by far the most interesting and though my stay was short, I loved every minute of it. Cochin has a long history and everywhere the past creeps up and confronts the visitor. The island on which the port of Cochin stands was the creation of a natural disaster in the fourteenth century which reshaped the coastline of Kerala. The Portuguese were the first to arrive here and in 1661 were driven out by the Dutch who controlled the valuable spice trade of the Travancore kingdom for nearly 132 years. On January 8th 1663 the Dutch seized Fort Kochi and the Queen of the Arabian Sea had to compete with other suitors for the attention of the Dutch Administration. Batavia and Cape Town were prefereed by the Gentleman XVII of the VOC. In 1741 the Dutch were defeated in the Battle of Calachel and the English became the dominant power in the Malabar region, though the power of the English was contested by the rising garrison states of Travancore and Mysore. The prosperity of the town is reflected in the many Dutch buildings that festoon Fort Cochin. The "pepper highway" brought huge profits to the European companies creating problems for the Mappillas, the Malabar Muslim community, who slowly faced economic stagnation as a direct consequence of the monopoly over the pepper trade established by the Dutch, the Portuguese and finally by the English. The history of Cochin's encounter with the resurgent Europe is found everywhere, particularly in Fort Cochin and Bolghotty Island. We started our tour of Cochin with a visit to the Sacred Heart College, Thevara, in which I had some official work. The College is well maintained.