Published: April 29th 2013April 29th 2013
Very old form of Kerala theater. All male dance troupe.
We cruised past the famous Chinese fishing nets and arrived in Kochi in Kerala, India. We like this southwestern area of India as it is laced with waterways and mangroves and very multi-cultural. For centuries, Kochi has been a vital stop along the international shipping routes. Also known as the Malabar Coast, the locals say that Kerala is "God's own country" because of its natural beauty and resources.
We took a boat trip on the backwaters which is right up our alley…any time we can get on a boat is good by us. The small canals and rivers are lined with residents who have lived this traditional lifestyle for eons. The water is the lifeblood of this delta region. People wash clothes, bathe, irrigate their rice paddies, fish, worship and socialize along the backwaters. Watching the women walking on the banks of the canals in their colorful sari dresses is quite a sight. I don’t know how they keep their clothes so spotless given the fact that they do their laundry in the brackish waters of the canals.
Our guide told us how things had improved in India in the last half century. Under the old caste system there
KEEP ON TRUCKIN'!
These trucks are painted brightly and carry religious messages
was a hair tax. There was also a breast tax. If a woman wanted to cover herself she had to pay a fee. The lowest caste could not go to the temples. Supposedly the caste system with these archaic rules has been banned but in reality it still lives on. We read news articles about a woman marrying below her caste and the riots that ensued as a result. The vast majority of marriages are still arranged as only 20% are “love marriages.”
We had lunch with Betty and Mary at the old Taj Malabar Hotel in Kochi. This regal hotel sits on the water’s edge and harkens back to the era of the Raj.
We traveled up the west coast of India to Mangalore which has become an important commercial center. We visited an old colonial plantation house which is now surrounded by urban sprawl replacing the coconut and cashew trees which used to cover the hillsides of Mangalore. Maria, our guide, told us that Arab traders brought slaves from Africa to work on the plantations. This year, because of an extreme heat wave, the entire mango crop has been lost.
Cost of property went from
They carry overnight passengers in the backwaters of Kerala
$1 per square meter to $1000 sm in just 15 years because both Indian and foreigner speculators have fueled the demand. Maria said “it is raining Russians.”
In Goa we were very happy to see that a new pier had been built for passenger ships. The old one was situated on the edge of a coal yard and inevitably our ship would end up covered in coal dust. We had a most interesting tour of Goa Chitra, an ethnographical museum which displays cultural artifacts from a bygone era. Victor Hugo Gomes, the founder, gave us a personalized tour of his museum. He said that in his lifetime, Goa has gone from the fishing net to the internet, sweeping away a healthier, simpler and more traditional way of life. It is Mr Gomes’ passion to preserve these important reminders of the past. His museum boasts over 4000 antique agricultural implements.
In Mumbai (Bombay) we hired a taxi to take us up to the Hanging Gardens as we went in search of Ravi, a street kid we first met in 2006 and have seen on each of our visits to India since then. Mumbai is filled with thousands of these
The old fashioned way...they beat it!
street children who make a bit of money by selling gum, post cards or peacock feathers. Ravi has been the main supporter of his family of four brothers and one sister since he was six years old. He has never gone to school but his income has paid for his siblings to get an education. Ravi’s Grandmother, whom we also met several times, was always there to watch over him and protect him from street bullies. We spent several hours listening to Ravi tell us about his life. He is completely fluent in English…all self-taught. He picked it up by following tour guides around and listening to their spiels. He took us on a tour of the gardens and could name all the plants and trees and points of interest. Right now he is trying to learn Mandarin since there are so many Chinese tourists coming to India. We had a computer that we wanted to give to him, but he is not computer literate and doesn’t plan to be. He works long days and doesn’t have time to learn this skill. Ravi said that every year he gets the cruise ship arrival schedule and he waits for the Voyager
to return hoping we will find him. He is the most charming, smart, humble, spiritual boy we have met in a long time. We can only hope that life will treat Ravi well and maybe he will have the good fortune of the Slumdog Millionaire.
There are more photos below