Tamil Nights and Stays. 1
Our three week Tamil/Kerala trip involved-One pier(Pondycherry)two pools(Tanjore and Cardomom)three temples(Tanjore and Madurai) four fish curries(Cochin) , five home stays and a thousand memories.
We ended up in Kerala’s Fort Cochin where for a few blocks Western tourism rules OK. Day one, very hot(36),great food, and Viv comes down with a heat rash. Day two the town is on strike. This happens regularly as the local opposition parties use strikes to protest at the ruling party and the ruling party uses strikes to protest at Delhi. The Communist Party has celebrated 60 years of ruling Kerala while the ultra Hindu nationalist BJP has just taken over from the Congress Party in Delhi.
But this strike says a lot about India. Three months ago a lad was found dead in a Kerala university. Some say it was just another a failing student committing suicide. His parent disagree. They demand an autopsy, this suggests foul play. An arrest is made. But when the case is presented to the magistrate court the papers are in such disarray that the accused is set free. His family are rich . Many assume that the police were paid to mishandle the case. It happens Others say the police didnt care because the dead boy is low caste. The accused disappears.
The murdered family protest. The police say there is nothing they can do. The opposition parties support the family, a strike is called. The family protest outside the state legislature. They are arrested. Claims are made of rough handling especially of the mother. The government takes out a ad saying “It has no regrets in the way it handled the case”. The opposition parties question this spending .
The family goes on a hunger strike. Some say the mother is faking it” and eating. But as my waiter said “People just like holidays thats why they strike.” Last month it was protesting a tax hike. Watch this space.
Swimming for Putney-Tanjore
Mostly we stayed in boutique B&B hotels. Not in Tanjore with its heroic temples,here for two nights we stayed at the very swanky Svatma. No bedspread too big to turn, the beer maybe double the price but the snacks are free, a smiling flunkey on every corner, a bowl of fruit on every table.. And a very tasteful walled pool with fountains and murals,towels and sun lounges in the pool. Just like home!
The dining room seated 100 but the two nights we were there, only another group of four showed up. Typically the musicians started their show when we turned up.
So we had the pool to ourselves. After a week on the road I could barely to a fifth of my usual yardage but it felt good. Luxury makes the travelling toads feel guilty and slightly embarrassed. But not for long.
In the foothills of the Gats we are taken to Athoor village. Here a temple celebration was taking place. A massive chariot float is slowly making its way down the high street. Those that are not pulling the ropes are giving us high fives and I am teaching some of the kids Baa Baa Black Sheep. This is my party piece. They want to know our names, they give us toffees, they collapse in giggles when we say thank you in Tamil, Nandy?,(one of India’s 200 languages!)
What is your name, how are you, where do you live. The float moves another ten feet, It gets caught in the telegraph wires. All the time the drums are beating. Not for me and my girl but for Shiva and Ganesh.