Waterland

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I woke up early and walked around the center of Fort Cochin. The humidity hit me as if a very heavy wet blanket was thrown over me. It hovered very close to 100% turning damp air into rain now and then.

I walked over moss covered pavers, along moss covered walls and under trees that may well be a few hundred years old with trunks and branches that have seen a lot of history. First the Portuguese were here and then the Dutch who firmly planted Christianity on this heathen soil. Churches, crosses, jesuses and monks are common figures in the landscape.

In spite of the heavy humid air and the puddles on the makeshift fields, soccer games were going on everywhere at this early hour. A walkway along the ocean was used by people doing their early morning constitutionals, their exercises, people shifting through the mass of water hyacinths for plastic bottles and other recyclables and fishermen repairing or arranging their nets.

I passed by the Dutch cemetery which was locked up behind a rusty gate – perpetually it seems. Large moss grown tombs were visible but I would have liked to see the inscriptions – who died here in the 1600s, so far from home? Who were these brave souls who left damp and cold Holland behind to convert people in this far away place?

At breakfast I met the extended Dutch party, immediate family of the groom and old friends. All the women, including the groom’s oma had had their hands henna-ed, intricate patterns applied with great skill during the previous days in Mumbai where the family of the bride lives.

Everyone had been taken shopping for sarees and wedding outfits. I fear that I will probably look a little frumpy, coming from the backwater of Afghanistan amidst these very sophisticated Mumbaian.
My friend had arranged for all of us to spend one night on a houseboat in what is called the backwaters. I can’t explain the look of the boats, not one is the same, so the slideshow will have to do. We encountered hundreds of them as we explored the waterland between the coast and the hinterland. They reminded me of elephants – big creatures lumbering along the waterways.

We had two boats to accommodate us all, the youngsters on one and the older one on the other, except that oma and I got to be with the younger group – maybe to keep an eye on things. We knew they had, with permission from parents, bought some adult beverages.

For lunch we lashed the two boats together and tied up at one of the small man-made islands where paddy is grown – the lush green color a wonderful sight after the khaki color of Kabul (khaki means dusty in Persian). The boat ride through these island-dotted waterways reminded me of the lilac islands on the Westeinder lake near in Aalsmeer.

The cooks had been working on our lunch since we had left the dock – vegetable curries with coconut, dhal, rice, fried fish, chutney, beans and more.

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