April 23, 1978: Got up very early to enjoy the cool morning: ordered tea and eggs to the verandah where I read the paper. Instead of writing up my journal, I decided to take a walk through the freshly swept streets to the ferry terminal where I bought a 40p ticket to Port Cochin for the 08:00 ferry.
This was a most enjoyable experience, however short it was. We passed flat bottom barges propelled by large square sails (left) and two men using poles. We sailed past artificial Willingdon island (right), shipyards, and an aircraft carrier and landed close to the inlet between Port Cochin and Vypeen.
On both sides, large cross-nets (left and below) kept going down and up every few minutes.
I sketched those at the cape where many buses were parked.
The cross-nets frames consisted of makai (seaward-side) poles some 15m long tied together and counterweighted by boulders hanging from ropes suspended from mauka (landward- side) poles at ninety degrees.
pICT Teams of six men pulled down other ropes every 2 or 3 minutes; these men get paid R45-50 a day. Small dipnets were used to empty out the nets, but the catch was disappointingly small. I noticed at least 20 of these nets at work here, and the crews were quite jolly.



I was joined by a young man, Cleetus Alexander, who was a hospital worker and spoke good English. We saw lots of crows sitting on the crossnets and flying up when the nets descended. Also 3 dolphins. Cleetus took me to North Point first, where he showed me the St. Francis Church, built in 1774, most likely atop another Portuguese church - in which in 1503 Vasco da Gama had been buried (recall that Francis Xavier was buried in Goa).
Presently some 65% of Keralans are Roman Catholic, some 25% Hindu!
I also noted many Dutch graves,one marked :
"den manhaften heer..." and another rather pleonasmicose:
"Hieronder rust ter salighen opstandinge het lijk van wijlen den E. Heer Abraham Cornelis de la Haye, oppercoopman secunde ..."" ["Hereunder rests till holy resurrection the corpse of the former "Sir" A.C.de la Haye, Commandor (of VOC's Malabar)..."]
I also saw a long list of marriage contracts as well as an original deed written on a dried palm leave. Elsewhere I found this chronology: "1503-1668 Portugal; 1668-1804 Holland; 1804-1948 England; 1978 Beverly Brownm Satoon, Thailand."
I noted the long air fans suspended above the church benches.
Next, we walked what he called one furlong (about 2/3 km) through a pleasant old village with impressive homes of former Portuguese bankers and owners of shipyards. There were jacarindhas and may cherries in the gardens, but to my regret I was at the end of my film again just when we reached a small beach which did not show any evidence of tar pollution.
I did see, however groups of four wooden beams apparently spread out to dry in the sun. These proved to be parts of a boat which could be easily assembled using ropes (left).



This happened to be a Sunday in a most literal sense: these Roman Catholic fishermen do not work on Sunday but take their boats apart to let them dry on this day! A group of them explained to me how they go about their fishing livelihood: at 04:00 they take advantage of the land breeze to sail out some 10 to 20 miles offshore using a large triangular sail (see sketch above right). They run out a fishing line to catch tuna. They proudly showed me their index-fingers which showed a deep scar which the fishing line had "excavated." After they demonstrated how to set up the masts and sails, I took them to a local shop and treated them to 20 cups of tea. This type of primitive boat is called a "Katumara", and I explained to them the Pacific catamaran, which is, however, doubble-hulled. They all wore dhotis, a cloth either wound around the body full-lenght, or just about the hips ; whichever way, they frequently change and allow fresh air to cool their private (hot) parts.
Next, we walked across a cemetery with stone tombs of English people of the 1800's and passed a R.C. Church where a marriage ceremony was underway cooled by real electric fans. In a nearby shop, I bought for about R 8 a Black and White film, since they had no colo(u)r films.
After that, Cleetus took me into a labyrinthal hut with woven wall partitions, where we bought and drank a bottle of white toddy made from fermented coconut palm tops. It did not taste too bad, but certainly got Cleetus talking! He makes some R 400 per month and is planning to go to the Punjaab as a hospital nurse. Slightly impaired we walked on past a Hindu temple that had just been dedicated yesterday. One of the elephants used in this ceremony was still standing there eating sugar cane!
more Cochin B.W. photographs



We walked on along pleasant shaded lanes with colorful and fragrant flowers and across dirty canals, and bought some ice creams packed in imitation handgrenades. Cleetus took me to the so-called "Dutch Palace", actually built by the Portuguese and now known as the Mattancherry Palace.
It was a large house with large rooms, partially filled with such antiques as baldakins, halbards, swords, carrying chaises of one pole and lazy reclining chairs with giant arm and leg supports. Most spectacular, however, were the murals, depicting Indian mythological figures including lucky princes or gods surrounded by dozens of nubile ladies (gopi) with large breasts: conveniently, some of the males had more than just two hands. There were scenes of animals cavorting in dense forests and more of that ilk. I tried to take some pictures but was not overly scuccessful.
Our next stop was the Jewish synagogue of 1568 - I was told the jews had been here since B.C. and that there were still some 40 Jewish families here - but ... the synagogue was closed this day because of Jewish New Year. As was a nearby hotel/restaurant, so that we had to take a taxi to have lunch in another hotel. For R 28, we had beer and two kinds of prawns, quite hot and delicious. After this, around 14:00, I went to my hotel by bus over two causeways and across a railroad where a very old lady stood begging and sang that she loved me - to the obvious embarrassment of my fellow passengers. Cleetus was to pick me up in the late afternoon to go to Kathakali and the intervening hours I spent taking two showers, reading, writing, resting and ordering tea and mangoes.
We took a rickshaw to a private house for the Kathakali dance which was held under a straw roof in the garden. Although there was only one French couple and the two of us, the dance started promptly after we paid R 15 each. Excellent explanations were given by P.K. Devan, the son of the famous Guru Gopala Paniker (still dancing at age 97 in 1999) whose family had revived the 2,000 year old dance and for the last ten years had featured daily performances by the Gurukulam Troupe. The Kathakali consists of some 110 stories with 100 characters, 40 motions, 20 alphabets and 800 words. Actors are trained from the age of five for 15 years for 12 hours a day, starting at 04:00 with 4 hours of rolling their eyes.
Make-up takes three hours a day and is principally with cocos products (Kerala means cocos), e.g. burnt oil soot, and coconut oil to clean off. Only boys are involved. Green represents good, black female demons. Long fingernails are for the left hand only. Many standard gestures represent waves, plants and animals and the degree of eye-coordination is astonishing. Since the originator dreamed that events occurred underwater, even the screen is made to move like waves. Their gesture for fish is identical with the Hawaiian hula's. After the initial demonstrations, two dances were performed to the accompaniment of drums, cymbols and voice. Coconut oil was used to light the scene, and citronella was provided against mosquitoes. It was very enjoyable and did not last all night ...as in Java. We ended up with ice coffee and samosas
We walked to the ferry, crossed in the cool breeze and full moonlight via Vypeen and arrived in Cochin around 22:00. Again, we walked through many narrow lanes and dropped by some bawdy house along a canal for beer and chatter, after which I missed the last bus and took a motor rickshaw to the Grand Hotel where I arrived just before midnight. In summary, a very interesting and "educational" day : I certainly liked Cochin and Kerala!

Cochin Stock Photography by David Sanger - Examining India, Christopher and Pat Wiltshire, 1999 ch X - more tales about gopis
BLO fecit 20060620/4 - next page