15. Saving for a Harthal

@Fort Cochin, Kerala, India.

What would you do on a harthal? The answer was that we would go on a trip. Why on a harthal day? Because it would save us from the legendary traffic block of Cochin; how can someone reach Fort Cochin without being affected by the heavy traffic? Go on a harthal day. It was basically a vehicle strike with somewhat a harthal flavour. Ever since they banned bandh and did their hooliganism on harthal days, we have been sitting at home on those occasions. When harthal is bandh and vice versa, and when both are strikes with possible violence, we had to go to that place of long history. We didn’t just had to go, we had to go on bikes; four people and two motorbikes; one a Honda Unicorn and the other one an Yamaha Libero G5. The riders were myself and three FISATeans, but all four bound by the same Federal tag and many stories which had a history of over ten years in Aluva. As both the motorbikes were quite old enough, they had their own history which was to be unimportant on that day. It was to be the of easy biking, as the number of vehicles around would be that low and the roads would call us to have a blind bike trip.

We were threatened by the clouds, but we knew it wasn’t going to rain that much at that point of time and the theory proved right in the end. As the petrol pumps were open, the main problem they call fuel was solved. We were to start early as we kept for ourselves a speed limit of 60km/hr; that helped a tired Libero, which had enough problems of it’s own without even people sitting on it. But it was still the thinnest bike around, seemingly trying for a zero figure, but it surely didn’t become Victoria Beckham. A Megan Fox comparison would have been what the bike owner wanted, but for a bike which could retire any day and claim a good pension in the scrapyard, there wasn’t to be much comparisons except for a proud owner. Even the slow journey was faster than any quick journey one would take through the city. The Vallarpadam Container road would have made some exception, but that road wasn’t open at this time of journey. As we had only one speedometer, it was a special ride which meant sure that there was the need of telepathy or mobile phone to keep up with each other and the first option failed. We also shared the indicators, horn and were happy not to share the engine.

When that Libero could follow us to Thoppumpady, it was a happy moment. Most of the distance was covered and it was still in quick time with so much time to spare at Fort Cochin. We stopped at St. Sebastain’s Church which was just before the Thoppumpady Junction and had a look around. It was a very old church, may be centuries old, which is a protected monument, but not many really know about it. The structure seemed to be nearing death unless some renovations were to be made, and this modification which has to be made not affecting the old structure was to be a difficult thing, as we could notice and understand. There was a beautiful view of the fishing boats and the old bridge behind the church. We stopped a little at two more less old and smaller churches on the way to Fort Cochin. As we moved on, it was as if where to visit first; Mattachery or Fort Cochin; but the fact remained that both were so related to each other and visiting just one place had to be ridiculous. To avoid the confusion, we just went through and covered the whole group of things which were eagerly waiting for tourists on a day which had less number of travellers due to the ugly strike.

The journey was perfect; the only problem was that most the places were already visited me, but as that was quite a while ago, it was okay. There was the Jain Temple which remained the best of it’s kind among my visited places until I got to see the Kolkata Jain Temple which surpassed my limited thoughts about it. The Jewish Synagogue was closed on that day and we had to be happy by taking photos from the outside. The Dutch Cemetery, a 282 year old was also a closed thing and it surely needed some renovation, being the oldest European cemetery in India. It had the tombs of the most important Europeans who made a permanent influence on Kochi, but I do wonder how many people care or even know about it. There are even people around who got no idea about the directions to reach there. The oldest European church in India was also visited, the St. Francis Church where Vasco Da Gama was originally buried. There are also many gravestones around. The Santa Cruz Basilica is one of the best among the older churches you see around. It is a symbol of both religion and ancient history, as it stands as a structure which awaits you with a lot of wonders inside. It is kind of Gothic, or closest to it that one can get in these lands.

After the magnificient view of Santa Cruz Basilica was put to rest for the time being, it was the time of the beach. The Fort Kochi beach never looked better. Having food out there was difficult considering it was a strike day and it all ended with us having not that good food, but the beach was still the place to rest. It wasn’t really a full beach as the sand area was limited, but it had paths to walk and places to sit and take rest along with those monuments which gave birth to photos. The Chinese fishing nets and their working was also caught on camera. We sat there for sometime eating ice creams and taking more and more photos as it got more crowded with the strike period getting over. There were lots of foreign tourist around which made us doubt if we are the tourists or did it better suit them at that moment. It was the day on which the crows had stomach upsets; they didn’t spare most of the motorbikes parked there. Buying Strawberry and Chocolate ice creams are always better options when you are at places like these, considering how determined these crows are. A few goats came with a land army to match the black flying creatures, but their reach was limited.

After showing some weird expressions on camera, we came back through another route, this one too leading to Thoppumpady and then to the usual route which was the low traffic area on the day. Holy Cross church was also made a part of the journey on our way back. It was the place which has a heavy significance on the history of Christianity in Kerala and India. It marks the Coonan Kurisu oath which was the result of the fight of traditional Christianity in Kerala that existed from 52 A.D against the Portuguese domination around 1600 years later as they made an effort to bring them under the Western tradition. It is also a pilgrimage centre attracting huge number of believers who come to see the cross. Jeevematha Church also existed on our way, but it looked kind of abandoned; may be it was to undergo renovation in the future. Just like any other historic monuments, it stayed; not much cared about. After having Ghee Roast and tea at Thoppumpady, the tour was declared a success, for we did see more places than we intended to; the only bad side being the Jewish Synagogue and the Dutch Cemetry staying closed.

Diving out —>

TeNy