“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
― Pat Conroy
The journey began as a visit to the temple called “Thiruvairanikulam”.It comes in the Eranakulam district and it is 15 km away from the Eranakulam city.
My wife can be called as a “Temple Junky” and she has offered to visit so many temples if she gets a suitable man. Well, as I am the quintessential suitable man she has to go to all those temples that she has made a vow of, right? I ,as the dutiful husband that I am, followed her and we reached Aluva station in the eve.We waited for ‘just’ one hour and there comes a Maruthi 8oo with an engine whirr like a Ferrari.The handsome Dhanesh chettan opened the door and we literally jumped in.He was driving like his ass was on fire and after sometime I understood something, that’s the way he drives!
After some serious honking and crazy driving we reached a water body and we stopped. He was waiting for the Jankar( that’s what people call the ferry here.).It came in 5 minutes and off we went into the blue. Aluva, if you already don’t know ,is a place filled with back -waters and ferrying is still a business there. We glided to the next bank and off we went again like crazy. We reached his home and after a hurried bath we rushed to the temple in his Ferrari again .
Well, I forgot to tell you something. This temple has the concept of “Uma- Maheshwari.”(the Shiva and Shakti or the yin yang,matter –antimatter, light and dark….you name it.).The Nada(Sanctum Sanctorum) of Shiva is open all round the year but the Nada of Parvathi(his wife) is only open for 12 days a year starting on the day of Thiruvathira.(which usually falls between December and Jan) and the next day happens to be the penultimate day of closing and on top of that its a Sunday too. Well, in short if we don’t do the “darshan” today (well, the time was 9.15 pm, so its actually tonight!) itself we may get trampled up by devotees tomorrow! So our good Dhaneshettan ‘Fast and furious’ed through the narrow Kerala “Idavazhi’s and we reached the place before 9.30 but to no avail. Bhagavati (goddess) was not ready to meet us today(no tonight!) and the doors of the Nada was closed before we could even get a glimpse of her. We came back defeated and decided to come back at early morning next.
Well, we did get up by 3 am and reached the temple by 4 am! By that time itself the place was filled.(Don’t this people sleep?)We saw Devi and had our fill and came back and crashed again .
By morning 7 am we got up and we visited the temple that was in front of their home itself and after that, we were free and a whole Sunday was in front of me.
Dhaneshettan has already offered me his bullet(an old beauty, with left sided breaks and right sided clutch).I started it and tried to move but as I am used to a gearless Scooter ,it was difficult for me to manoeuvre the beauty.
“Dhaneshetta, can I get a bullet with right sided breaks and a left sided clutch?” I asked without much hope .
“Of course dear! I can even get you a new Thunderbird with electric start if you want. I am part of a “Bullet club” by the way!”I almost felt like kissing him and I nodded my affirmative .He called ‘The Biju ettan’ and there he comes with a black beauty,a 1999 model bullet.I kick started it and I could feel the immense power vibrating beneath my hands.
“The Airport is quite near.Let’s go for a short ride so that you will get a hang of the machine, what say?” Dhaneshettan asked and I nodded my affirmative again. What a resourceful man! I called my wife and we hopped on to the beast.The thing roared, spitted and moved like a dream! God, I could totally understand why there are so many bullet fanatics!
I could feel an immense satisfaction while seeing the palms roll by. It was almost like I was conquering them!There is a reason it is called “royal”.We reached the back part of the Airport and I could see lot of huge machines tethered and ready to fly and I was also ready to fly.
“You ride to Fort Kochi macha. The place is a scream.” He told me with a smile and I could see the same wanderlust that sometimes shines in my own eyes reflected in his.
“While coming back you keep the bike in Mini Civil station near Aluva rail -way station so that you won’t miss the evening train.I have friends there. Just enjoy brother.” I again felt like hugging him. After a Naadan breakfast we told our fond good byes and off we went. A beautiful morning, a pocketful of yearning, a charming girl and a bullet for cruising! Wah…Ustad….Wah!
I entered the first Gas station that I saw and alighted in style to horribly understand something that I completely forgot to ask.Was it a pertrol engine or a diesel engine? I gulped involuntarily and the petrol guy was giving me a questionable glance. A lean and “paavam’ looking guy was standing near the bunk and went near him and asked in a low tone.”EE vandi petrolaa dieselaaa?(is it a petrol engine or diesel engine?”) .He smiled imperceptibly and told ‘Petrol ‘and petrol it was.I filled the tank and we started the journey. Dhaneshettan has already given me a blow by blow account of the route, but me being a wonderful navigator forgot all the directions in 5 minutes. I believed in the Tattva called ‘Choychu choychu povam’ and that’s what we did.We asked and asked and asked..
The under-construction Kochi metro was with us most of the time and it would be wonderful to see it completely done and dealt with. I saw a metro worker getting hit by a wayward van and I thought to myself ‘how many more will be done and dealt with before this gets finished!”.We reached Edappally and then took a turn to Kudanur and from there took a right. If you have not travelled through this way before then you should. The view is mainly back waters and that can’t be unpleasant right? After going through 3 bridges we found directions for Fort Kochi but for a new traveller all the directions are mis-directions. The road started to become a coagulated mess and again and again I stopped and asked for directions.
Then the sighnboards which simply proclaims right for Fort Kochi and Left for Mattanchery came and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Kochi was a fishing village in the Kingdom of Kochi in the pre-colonial Kerala. The territory that would be later known as Fort Kochi was granted to the Portuguese in 1503 by the Rajah of Kochi, after the forces of Afonso de Albuquerque helped him fighting the forces of Saamoothiri of Kozhikode. The Rajah also gave them permission to build Fort Emmanuel near the waterfront to protect their commercial interests. The first part of the name Fort Kochi comes from this fort, which the Dutch later destroyed. The Portuguese built their settlement behind the fort, including a wooden church, which was rebuilt in 1516 as a permanent structure, today known as the St Francis Church. Fort Kochi remained in Portuguese possession for 160 years. In 1683 the Dutch captured the territory from the Portuguese, destroyed many Portuguese institutions, particularly Catholic including convents. The Dutch held Fort Kochi in their possession for 112 years until 1795, when the British took control by defeating the Dutch. Foreign control of Fort Kochi ended in 1947 with the Indian independence.
It is a place seeped in history, misery and life at the same time. Somehow I gloriously got lost again and ended up in Mattanchery which was adjacent!
It is said that the cheri (street) full of mutton butchers gradually became muttoncheri which is spelled now as mattancherry. also it is said that the name Mattancherry comes from “Ancherry Mattom”, a Namboodiri illam which the foreign traders then pronounced it as Matt-Ancherry, gradually became Mattancherry.
Mattancherry is home to India’s oldest functioning synagogue called the Paradesi Synagogue.Paradesi means “foreigner” and a Synagogue is a jewish temple.It was a cozy place and a Cochin dude was standing guard infront of the place.The place was not visible from outside.We entered and found myself transported.
It was a peculiar looking place with an altar adorned with a big red cloth and there was lot of hebrew writing on it.My knowledge about Jewism is next to nothing and I made a silent prayer to the almighty and checked the place out silently.The place was still open for worship and I could see some grim looking worshippers sitting with looks that are smoldering.Well who knows what they might be going through!
We came out and asked directions for the nearest place of interest. A police museum was mentioned but it turned out to be a dud.
We again walked through the narrow pathways (which has been featured in countless Malayalam movies. The newest would be Charlie) and my wife suddenly was possessed by the shopping spirit (this spirit is very common and dangerous. All the future husbands must be aware of this blood sucker. It can posses people even in broad daylight, especially if they are walking through streets filled with aesthetic shops . The females will usually get a glazed look when the possession happens. Run in the opposite direction as fast as possible and make sure to take your valet with you. Humans, you have been warned!) and she purchased a top for an exorbitant amount!(500 Rs is an exorbitant amount for me!).
After this outrageous and extremely horrific act we hopped on to our bullet again and went search in for the Mattancheri palace.
The Palace was built and gifted by the Portuguese as a present to the Raja of Cochin around 1555. The Dutch carried out some extensions and renovations in the palace in 1663, and thereafter it was popularly called Dutch Palace. The rajas also made more improvements to it.
Today, it is a portrait gallery of the Cochin Rajas and notable for some of the best mythological murals in India, which are in the best traditions of Hindu temple art.
For some time we were lost in the world of Gods and kings and of mysticism and eroticism. These guys really loved the spectacle called life and that was evident in the brightly colored murals that was on display. Every smile was an event and every gaze was a vista. Sadly they are not allowing photography here and you would have to come in person if you want to see it. The inner courtyard holds the Pazhvangadi ganapathi temple and the whole building is made like Naalukettu.
After the palace again the shopping spirit attacked my wife and we walked through various shops filled with lot of knick knacks but this time I managed without heavy losses and off we went to fort kochi.
We visited the famous St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi.
Originally built in 1503, it is the oldest European church in India and has great historical significance as a mute witness to the European colonial struggle in the subcontinent.
a google image
The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon.The church is also called as The Vasco Da Gama church.
I could see lot of foreign and Indian visitors there and we sat in silent prayer for sometime in the cavernous, history filled hallway.
I could almost hear the sounds of thousands of unfinished prayers there.
It was time to go back. We were hungry and decided to have lunch from a road side joint.(I forgot the name though).The place was really cool. It was in the open and there was a good shade. There were lot of exotic looking tourists all around us and the food was good.(A bit costly though).My wife looked at all the miniskirts and the tight shirts on display and ruminated about her body weight and I ate.
We took the ferry back and reached Vypin Island.From there we started our ride back. We reached Aluva in one hour and my wife mused aloud. “ I am starting to like the ride.We should also get one.” I added “One kick ass Royal Enfield” to my wish list and kept the bike in the civil station.
We took the intercity and the familiar sound of the wheels, the wind and the people felt good. We should always step out then only we will have the ability to really ‘step in’ when the time comes, what say?
PS- The History part is copy-pasted from Wikipedia. No need to get“I got you thief ” on me.
Happy reading and happy riding folks.