Wednesday, May 30, 2012


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.
Cochin is famous all over the world for the small community of Jews who migrated to this port town to escape persecution during the frequent outbreaks of violence against them in Europe. India can be proud of the fact that when Europenas were killing Jews as recently as the German Holocaust in the 1940s, India protected and patronised the jewish population. Unfortunately the silly policies of Nehru di8d not enable India to develop good ties with Israel. The Jewish quarter is replete with history.
The shops alongside the Jewish Synagogue are full of interesting alcoves where one probably can get genuine antiques if one's pocket is deep enough. The churches of Cochin are a marvel. One of the oldest churches in Southern India is located in Cocin. The Santa Cruz Basilica which was constructed by the Portuguese is an architectural marvel.
The seascape around Kochi has now become nerve center of oil terminals, container docks, ship building platforms, naval yard and a score of other unlovely things. Yet the Arabian Sea around Kochi retains a grandeur that is best witnessed when one takes the boat ride around the harbor. Kochi has some incredibly beautiful spots and the area around the High Court is one such.
The beauty of the buildings, the historical sites of memory, the grandeur of the sea around Kochi will linger long after one has left this beautiful city. My daughter, her friend Divya and Sandesh visited an elephnat training camp and here are the pictures:
Like all good things in life our trip to Kochi too came to an end. We a heavy heart my daughter and I packed our bags and returned to Pondicherry. But we took back from Kochi memories that will live in our hearts forever. KOCHI YOU ARE THE QUEEN OF THE ARABIAN SEA

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