“India has always had a strange way with her conquerors. In defeat, she beckons them in, then slowly seduces, assimilates and transforms them.” ~ William Dalrymple, White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India
The dusty, tarred and paved alleys / roads of Fort Cochin especially in and closer to the old town / harbour entrance can be explored at a leisurely pace for hours on end. On my first visit I ended up getting lost and walking with a heavy backpack for an extra few kilometres. Some great little snack bars and restaurants can be found in this area, which is mostly alcohol free (I did find one official bar doing limited sales). Late afternoon through the road network ending with an ice-cream is a must-do. Morning walks are also great and present some lovely photo opportunities with golden rays striking through the alleys and trees. Think… relaxing lazy days, market buzz in the distance, dogs napping nearby, the odd fly buzzing around and crows waiting for a titbit: I love India! Further along the dusty, tarred and paved alleys / roads of Fort Cochin is the promenade where people gather at the waterfront to exercise, socialise and or just watch the sun go down. I said earlier that Fort Cochin could be described as the cutest little town I have discovered this far in India; it’s maybe also the most “innocent”. The photo below is of two bicycles parked off while their owners watch the sun slowly go down. A gent is seen reading in the background with two passers-by heading along the dusty sand pathway.
Canon South Africa 6D, F4, 1/250 sec, ISO 320
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Early Bird Catches the Worm: Early one morning, before sunrise, I arranged for my tuk-tuk taxi man to fetch me. We shot some sunrise photos on the edge of the lake and it was then time to explore some of the narrow alleys on the edge of the lake / waterway.
The fisherman below had no doubt woken up a short while before me and had already retrieved his catch of small fish from his net. I met him in an alley that heads to the main road.
About 30 min before I had met another local who, like the fisherman, was also a smoker. I thought it would be a done deal; offer him a few packets of Beedi (thin, Indian cigarette filled with tobacco flake and wrapped in a tendu or possibly even Piliostigma racemosum leaf tied with a string at one end) and then he would allow me to take photos of him.
The fisherman declined the Beedi deal but through the translator explained that some Rupees (cash) to buy a 07:30 refresher in the morning from the toddy shop (coconut wine / beer) would seal the deal!
Wikipedia: “Palm wine is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms.
In Karnataka, India, palm wine is usually available at toddy shops (known as Kallu Kadai in [Tamil], Kalitha Gadang in Tulu, Kallu Dukanam in Telugu, Kallu Angadi in Kannada or “Liquor Shop” in English).
In the Indian state of Kerala, toddy is used in leavening (as a substitute for yeast) a local form of hopper called the “Vellayappam”.
Toddy is mixed with rice dough and left over night to aid in fermentation and expansion of the dough causing the dough to rise overnight, making the bread soft when prepared.
In Kerala, toddy is sold under a licence issued by the excise department and it is an industry having more than 50,000 employees with a welfare board under the labour department”.
Canon 6D, F4, 1/400 sec, ISO 640, NL – 24/105mm L
Wikipedia: “A beedi (/ˈbiːdiː/; from Hindi: बीड़ी; also spelled bidi or biri) is a thin, Indian cigarette filled with tobacco flake and wrapped in a tendu or possibly even Piliostigma racemosum leaf tied with a string at one end. The name is derived from the Marwari word beeda – a leaf wrapped in betel nuts, herbs, and condiments. A traditional method of tobacco use throughout South Asia and parts of the Middle East, today beedies are popular and inexpensive in India. There, beedi consumption outpaces that of conventional cigarettes. Beedi smoking tends to be associated with a lower social standing, and these tobacco-filled leaves are inexpensive, when compared to regular cigarettes. Those with a high social standing who do smoke beedies often do so out of the public eye.”
I met the chap below near the Chinese fishing nets at Fort Cochin in Kerala. He was smoking a beedi and gladly allowed me to snap a few photos much to the delight of him and his friends. I’m not a smoker but couldn’t resist getting “low down and dirty” with many of the locals during the recent trip – communication jumped a few levels when I lit up my own beedi, sat on the ground, smoked and shared a few stories. Faces lit up, including my own, and we gossiped in half-English as best as we could. If you are ever in this area go stay at Heavenly Homestay,Fortcochin. Enquries: Patrick Bernad – highly recommended!
Canon 6D, 24-105mm, F4, 1/160 sec, ISO 320 – PP LR PS
“Indians are the Italians of Asia and vice versa. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy, and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop at the corner. For them, food is the music inside the body and music is the food inside the heart” ~ Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
Wikipedia: “The Masjid-i Jahān-Numā (Persian: مسجد-ا جہاں نما, Devanagari: मस्जिद जहान नुमा, the ‘World-reflecting Mosque’), commonly known as the Jama Masjid (Hindi: जामा मस्जिद, Urdu: جامع مسجد) of Delhi, is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it is the best-known mosque in India. Construction began in 1650 and was completed in 1656. It lies at the beginning of the Chawri Bazar Road, a very busy central street of Old Delhi. The later name, Jama Masjid, refers to the weekly Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims, Jummah, which are usually done in a mosque, the “congregational mosque” or “jāma masjid”. The courtyard of the mosque can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers. The mosque also houses several relics in a closet in the north gate, including an antique copy of the Qur’an written on deer skin.”
The photo below was taken inside Leopold Café during one of the many nights that we spent their sipping on ice cold beer and eating warm curry or derivatives thereof.
The photo is named Leopold Love but I cannot honestly say that the couple sitting together glued to their mobile phones were or are an item. For all I know they could be friends, relatives or who knows what.
The couple are seen sitting at one of the downstairs tables where it gets a little hot at times even though the fans above are flying at high speed. The restaurant does have an upstairs section which is air-conditioned that to the extent that one might possibly be able to chill some beers.
“Leopold Café is a large and popular restaurant and bar on Colaba Causeway, in the Colaba area of Mumbai, India, located across from the Colaba Police station. The cafe was also mentioned extensively in the novel Shantaram. The cafe was an early site of gunfire and grenade explosions during the 2008 Mumbai attacks by terrorists. The restaurant was extensively damaged during the attacks. Gunmen sprayed the restaurant with bullets and there were blood stains on the floor and shoes left by fleeing customers. Sourav Mishra, a Reuters reporter and one of the first media witnesses of the attack, suffered severe bullet injuries. The cafe reopened four days after the attack, but was reclosed by the police as a safety measure after two hours because of the unexpected size of crowds gathering there.” ~ Wikipedia
If you have not been to the Leopold Café, then due two things right off each other in this order. Firstly, read the novel Shantaram written by Gregory David Roberts, and secondly, go pass a good few hours inside the cafe sipping on your favourite drink and eating the lovely food.
As of 01 March 2015, I’m busy on chapter 3 of Shantaram; happily reading this long thick interesting book for the second time.
At the time of starting to work on the photo(s) below I was simultaneously “grumbling” about photographing sunsets and sunrises in India and how “hard” it is. Unlike in South Africa where you usually get a splendid fifteen minute or so warning in the sky that the sun is about to rise, in India the sun seemed to often rise without warning and only appear out of the haze once a few “centimetres” above the horizon. This is that same point it often disappeared at sunset before sinking below the horizon. Back home the sun can sink out of sight and below the horizon and then throw beautiful light back onto the clouds above.
The photo(s) below was / were taken at Fort Cochin, Kerala at sunset and it was one of those lucky late afternoons where I got some action in the sky. A Chinese fishing net, rummaging dog, courting couples, hunting crows and boat entering the harbour complement the sinking sun.
Fort Cochin is where we found Patrick and Mary of Heavenly Homestay, who really made us feel at home and exuded much love, respect and goodwill. It was the best place I have stayed in during three trips to India.
Heavenly Homestay address: 11/639, Machenzie Garden Road, Pattalam, Thamaraparambu, Kochi, Kerala 682001, India. Phone: +91 98470 33818.
To end off the section, I will include three further photos below showing the crows, one of the dogs and a ship entering the harbour. The one photo is called Crow Playground as they were a hell of a lot of crows flying and jumping around. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before and will surely same mention again: the crows in India are very healthy birds.
The other photo is called Sunset Stroll and shows some of the people, who gather at the waterfront to exercise, socialise and or just watch the sun go down. Fort Cochin could be described as the cutest little town I have discovered this far in India.
This is my second post related to the same location but with different photos.
I could read back on the comments made on previous photographs to see if I mentioned Leopold Café in Colaba, but decided against it and do know that I mention “my favourite restaurant” above.
Yes, I loved Leopold Café so much so that I seem to recall visiting it almost every night that we were in Mumbai. But, the inserted photograph is not about the restaurant but a good soul who works in a shop or two away.
“The Tailor” was always game for a little chitchat when I went outside the restaurant for some fresh air and to stretch my legs. He is one of the many hard-working persons I encountered in India and I seem to recall that he only closed shop at around 22:00 hours in the evening.
As you can see, he is not a spring chicken but despite his old age, was full of joy and patience while I took photographs and disturbed his peace.
I promised this gentleman that I would email him some of the photographs I took and felt a little guilty this morning knowing that I had not yet kept my promise. As I type this paragraph, it is before 10:00 hours in the morning at around which time my email to Filippo Boutique will be flying out of South Africa towards Mumbai at electronic speed!
Photos taken in Colaba, Maharashtra, India.
It’s been two months since we returned from India and the last five weeks or more have seen very little of the multiple photos that I took. I suppose what sparked my interest on Thursday, 12 February 2015 was a chat I had was a local/South African Indian businessman who was off to Dubai and Malaysia. I asked him if he had ever been to India and was sure I knew the answer before he gave it. He replied in the negative confirming my suspicions.
I asked him why he had never visited India, the country of his roots, and he told me what a number of other local persons have told me “It is very dirty and poverty stricken isn’t it?” Once again I went to great lengths to explain all sides of the coin as I know best from having visited India on three occasions during the past six years or so.
The first photo that caught my eye, one I have previously presented, was taken at night in Colaba outside Leopold Café. I named this photo “Blue Nights”. In this photo a mother or perhaps grandmother is seen holding a young child and asking for money.
On two occasions whilst walking on the streets during the day, we were approached by a mother with a young child who pointed at a nearby store and tried to convince us that she did not want money but baby food from the store. She followed us into the store and the shop owner even confirmed her story to be true.
We suspected that this was a ploy to relieve us of our money, a portion of which would be returned to the mother once we left the shop and the shop owner would keep his cut. Of course our suspicions could be very wrong.
The second photo that grabbed my attention the next evening was taken early morning shortly after sunrise on the side of a canal on the Kerala Backwaters.
The green rice fields of prominent in the photo and the large long backwater canal is out of the picture, raised a metre or two above the rice field, to the left.
The two photographs are collectively called “Two Faces of India”, but should perhaps be called two of many faces of India.