Five years ago we cruised the Indian Ocean, and one of the highlights of that trip was the excursion we took out from Cochi, India. The river that empties into the ocean at Cochi takes a long and wandering path across the flats and we took a boat tour of the meandering waterway. It was a long and interesting day and we remember it fondly. This time around we decided to visit the city. The Portuguese came this way in the 1500’s and found a small Jewish population in place back then. Over the many centuries the western powers have passed this area amongst themselves until Indian independence. This has meant that there is a higher than usual percentage of Christians in this state, both RC and Anglican. And many churches that day way way back. There is also a collection of synagogues. And in a typically Indian way they are all scrambled together, so the churchyard over looks the temple and the mosque is in the background.
Our tour began in the historic Jew Town. Writing that makes me uncomfortable – couldn’t we call it the Jewish Quarter? As you can see the streets are narrow and lined with little shops. There was a lot of pent up shopping demand regarding Cochi – the word was this was the place to buy clothing. And everyone is getting pretty sick of their own clothes by now. The round the world people must be really feeling it. (Dinner that night was a bit of a fashion show!)
There is a very old synagogue in this area. There are no longer enough people to constitute an congregation, but the synagogue is endowed and is used for special occasions.
As we walked along the street members of our group would be darting in and out of the shops, emerging with bags.
We were the first customer of the day and he had our purchase bagged and ready to go before the picture was taken. And no, I didn’t buy another pashmina! A tea cozy shaped like an elephant to remind of us our trip.
Aren’t these two statues great? No way to get them in the checked luggage, however.
The second part of the tour involved a walk along the shore to see the fishermen, their nets and stalls, ending with a boat ride in the harbour.
There were hundreds and hundreds of these boats. It was Sunday, so many of the fishermen were in port. Apparently there are 4000 or so of these small boats in this area. And the fish processing plants and ice plants that support them. A large part of what makes this area work.
Both Mangalore and Cochi did not look like the scenes of poverty and despair that we often associate with parts of India. Both states have over 90% literacy and are relatively prosperous. One thing that we didn’t see in either place was begging. Of course we didn’t see everything and life is very difficult for the rural ( and urban) poor. These two ‘small’ states (each of which has a population greater than Canada!) do seem to be making progress.