QUIET AND PEACEFUL BUT STILL HOT!
FORT KOCHI’S TOURIST SEASON HAS COME TO A CRASHING HALT!
This morning I walked down to the Kashi Art Café – Fort Kochi’s premiere coffee house for foreigners – arriving at about 9:00 AM and there were three people in the place. Kashi’s staff outnumbered customers by a factor of three. And Princess Street, Fort Kochi’s main drag, was quiet. As I walked up to the corner to pick up a bottle of water at the tourist’s favorite every-Western-item-you-thought-you-couldn’t-find-in-Inida-we-have general store, Preethi’s by name, I noticed only three white faces strolling along the street through a gaggle of rickshaw drivers all offering them the 50 Rupee Special Sightseeing Deal.
And, as I passed St. Margaret’s School for Girls, which is normally abuzz with the muffled sounds of 300 high-pitched young voices reciting some Christian text, quiet reigned. It was then that I realized I hadn’t seen – or nearly been pushed off the roadway – by one of those gleaming white, Air-Conditioned tourist busses filled with middle aged Australians or Frenchmen. Plus, I realized it must be a holiday today here in Kerala (or maybe across the country) in honor of the God Ganesh or India’s winning five straight cricket matches at the World Cricket Cup down in Australia or maybe the birthday or deathday of one of the country’s famous or infamous (it makes no difference) politicians. Every school I passed, about six in the less than a mile walk back to our temporary home, was silent.
So yes, the tourist season has ended. Come to a close for the year. The streets are quiet. No clots of white folks looking desperate and hot in the blazing afternoon sun wondering how they had wound up at the Mattancherry Ferry when the map clearly told them they were at the Ernakulum Boat Jetty. But, then, the Ernakulum Boat Jetty is right behind the Police Tourist Assistance Station as a giant painted sign proclaims, that is - conveniently? - located next door to the local prison, not that I’ve ever seen a single tourist enquiring at the Police Tourist Assistance Station in five years. This lack of patronage might be due to the fact that the dark, blood red painted building has all the welcoming charm of an oncoming forest fire.
Ran into Abraham and Antonia as I turned the corner into the lane where we are staying. Both from Spain – the Biblical “Abraham” is pronounced a somewhat Islamic “IB-RAH-HUM” as Abraham introduced himself last night – and a bit weary I think from the onslaught to the senses that is typically the side effect of one’s first visit to India. They have temporarily taken the place formerly occupied by Emilio and Katya who have embarked on a bus journey to the cooler hills of the Western Ghats for an extended weekend. The Hills – small mountains, really, but then compared to the Himalayas, “hills” is an apt description - are only 100 kms. away from Kochi but the bus ride takes about six hours provided, of course, there are no lorry work stoppage protests along National Highway 7 or bridge collapses from the on-again, off-again showers we’ve been getting of late. I wish them Godspeed and hope Lakshmi is watching over them.
But for now I’m enjoying the quiet absence of all the Frenchmen, Germans, Aussies, New Zealanders and Brits (and the occasional American) formerly clogging our favorite hangouts and Princess Street. I am, however, looking forward to Emilio and Katya’s return, cute and precious couple that they are!
Have A Good Day!