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Kochi chronicles - a travelogue masquerading as a blog...

"Passengers are requested not to carry pickle and masala powder in their hand-baggage" The crimson letters on a pale green background stared at me through a flight information terminal at the Kochi (or Cochin or Kochin - there are at least three variants of the city's name that I came across during my stay) airport as I started this blog. I've had a fascinating day at Kochi and its time to recollect some of the interesting moments and preserve them for posterity here...

I arrived in Kochi on Tuesday, and the first thing that overwhelmed me was the omnipresent greenery! Being a Delhi lad, even Bangalore seemed lush when I had first landed. But what I saw from the plane window while landing, quickly corrected my ill contrived city notions of greenery! What I read in plane's travel magazine, only asserted my observation from the plane's 6"x10" aperture: "When God painted Kerala he lost all colors in his palette except green". This was the first time I was flying over a city which had little or no visible trace of human construction, you would only see an occasional tall, white, cathedral building peeping through the trees - as if straining to stand-up to be counted amongst the trees, struggling to get its fair share of sunshine...

The landing was smooth and I soon found myself waiting to collect my baggage, which arrived after an arduous wait. The drive to hotel was colorful - never before have I seen such variety of landscape pass by me while still being in the same city! If stretch near airport was overlooked by scanty canopies of coconut trees, twenty minutes later I found myself in a typical urban Indian cityscape - replete with hoardings screaming big brand names, and then again passing by the array of coconut trees - this time trees being an even distant sight, with sea between them and my car (the beginning of the stretch marked by the words "Kochi Port Trust").

My lexical inclination found another subject in Malyalam. Malyalam (like any major language in India) has its own script! I took instant liking to the slithering, curving serpentine script, (and found it a pity that its yet to make it to Windows) so when it was not trees and seas, it was city graffiti that kept my attention. (and I came out richer by 6 letters by the time we concluded our drive ;-)).

Few cultural observations (my apologies if you are offended, in which case, do drop me a line and I'll promptly remove them from this blog). I knew that actor Mohan Lal was big down here, but the notion of "big" was certainly grossly out of place. He had a complete monopoly of every single movie poster/hording I saw! Mohan Lal in different manifestations that he portrayed in the movies - the messiah of poor, the farmer, the crusader, the winner (not to mention couple of ads I saw featuring him). Then there were humungous hoardings of gold jewelry shops in more or less same proportions as movie banners (most of them hand painted - unlike their digitally printed counter parts that one comes across in most cities). Through my entire drive I must have seen more jewelry shops than the cumulative sum of number I've seen in my whole life! Gold indeed is deeply ingrained in Indian culture the extent just became clearer..

I was in meetings whole day and I was too tired to venture out in the evening, so we'll cut to the next morning's drive back to the airport :-). For some lame reason, a sudden strike had been declared by worker unions in Kerala. My car from yesterday had abruptly abandoned me to seek my own means of reaching airport (no amount of pleading or reasoning would convince the driver). I eventually had to rely on Hotel's airport shuttle - in hindsight I am glad I did, for they also sent a police inspector (and labeled the shuttle "POLICE") to ward of any miscreants and so never before have I been so glad at sight of a building labeled "airport".

I saw some of the worst ads (perhaps worst ever created by mankind) during the journey back. The first one was trying to sell life insurance policy with a punch line that went something like "Metlife's sixer to problems of life" with illustration of snoopy (the dog from comic strip peanuts), hitting a cricket ball. The second one, incidentally also selling insurance policy, muttered "There is no match for our fire policy" - the word "match" used as a bad pun to depict a burning matchbox. Perhaps the idea here was to make these ads grotesque intentionally so that they persist in your memory for the sheer disgust they made you endure (do bad ads make good blog entires - let me know ;-)).

At last I was in the plane (part of the blog was completed there!) after getting past the security formalities. During the security checks, I found something very different from any other airport I've been to (yet again!). The usage of computers was minimal. Most of the work was done manually using good old pen and paper (e.g. before I boarded the plane, my pass no. was ticked off on a sheet of paper rather than being punched in into a computer terminal). The plane that flies between Cochin and Bangalore is not a 737 but an ATR. They are popular for short haul, low traffic flights. Almost the entire "ATR" fleet of jet airways, now carries a sticker (or may be it is paint ;-)) which reads "Environment Friendly ATR" - puzzled me for a few seconds, till I realized that ATRs also fly lower than your conventional bigger planes - so they don't mess the stratosphere with remnants of aviation fuel (fine, crafty example of economic compulsion, technological limitation being passed off as an endeavor for environment care).

Kochi was a firsts in many ways - unfortunately it was also the first time I regretted having asked for a window seat. As I mentioned, we were flying ATR. Now ATRs have huge propeller blades mounted on either wings. Your seat is just below the wings, so you can see the rotating propeller blade, not to mention exposure to unwelcome generosity of engine noise. I was in seat 5A, and by virtue of that, in direct view of the rotating propeller blade mounted on left wing (the direction of rotation being counter clockwise if viewed from front) and I don't know how I conjured this phobia (lets call it propellophobia), that if the propeller were to be dislodged from the spindle, it would come crashing through the airplane window, making minced meat of my torso. Result, my appetite for picturesque outside view abandoned me (and I did not waste a single second in encroaching the empty seat next to me - just to introduce that little extra distance between the blade and myself to buy me more "ducking seconds" in case of any eventuality). Thankfully, the sadistic beasts of my fertile imagination stayed just that and I survived to finish yet another glorious entry to my blog :-) [despite the constant morbid fear of being mauled at the hands of a plane propeller].
posted: 21.5.03


I really liked the info on your site about Movie Poster - nice work. I've just started my own Movie Poster Secrets blog and would really appreciate you stopping by

By Blogger emily, at 26.9.05  

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