Saj, our homestay owner, made arrangements for us to get a traditional Indian oil rub early this morning. A tuk tuk driver met us at 7:25A and we left the touristy area for a local place. We had two woman working on us. The table was a beautiful hard wood, and was convex, lengthwise, so that your body opened laterally. It wasn’t a full panchakarma treatment—I was spoiled by Mary Alice, but it was pretty wonderful. 90 minutes later we stumbled back into the tuk tuk and joined Pinchas for breakfast.
An hour later, on our own, we were in segregated lines to buy 6 cent tickets for the ferry to Ernakarlum, the main part of Cochin. There we met a lovely young Israeli couple and spent the ride over chatting and sharing our amazement at the friendliness and generosity of the people we encountered. We might meet them in Munnar next Shabbat. Leaving the ferry, a Muslim woman in colorful but covered dress walked up beside me to ask if I liked Cochin and India. Sometimes the women look so unapproachable, and they are so open and friendly.
We parted ways with Pinchas and went shopping on Broadway, a narrow street, despite its name, filled with everything imaginable. We found Indian spice holders, resolved to buy them on our way back, then of course never made it back that way. Maybe somewhere else…
Then we found ourselves in the covered food market. Since day one, Ronni and I are dressed in kurtas, somehow thinking we would blend in. What a joke. We so stand out. Every few minutes, someone has a comment, compliment or a question for us. We walked quite a way in the heat, to find the famous Indian department store, Seemaati. We thought we might find some ready to wear clothes on the first floor, but the quality was pretty poor. We walked up to the third floor—there was an elevator, but the power in the building kept cutting out and getting stuck in a crowded elevator in India did not sound like a pleasant experience, even if it would have made a good story. A very nice gentleman asked if he could help us. Turned out that there was no ready to wear upstairs, then proceeded to give us a tour of the store. We saw beautiful Indian women choosing gorgeous silks for saris. We made it out of the store without buying anything, and found a restaurant for lunch. Again, food was very good, Moslem place, no foreigners but us.
We shopped a bit more, Ronni bought a beautiful outfit, found a tuk tuk back to the ferry and went home to Saj’s. Ronni gave me 15 minutes, then we were off again. Pinchas had not eaten lunch, so we found the coffee house from the first day and got him going again. He had done some shopping earlier with more success, so we followed him to his favorite shop, where we could finally spend some money. I got some clothes for the rest of the trip, nothing made to order, but fun and Indian. We went to a famous North Indian restaurant and had great food. This place was filled with tourists. It is constantly written up for a good reason. On our way back, we walked on the promenade next to the sea. It was filled with people, mostly Indian, here for the New Years Celebration tomorrow night. Too bad we are missing it, we’ll be in a quiet place on a river. Ronni and I struck up a conversation with a guy selling different sugars off a cart. He gave us a full education on what sugar was what—coconut, palm, cane with ginger and pepper, and the medicinal properties of each. Then he gave us samples of each, breaking off pieces for us. It was all very generous. He knew we were not buying, just wanted to share his Indian product with us and talk. It was very sweet—literally! A few steps on, we found an amphitheater with Indian karaoke in full swing. Everyone was there, families with little kids, couples, tourists… The music was loud, lots of fun and pretty much like karaoke anywhere. People brought music sheets but it looked like there was also a monitor. It was a memorable way to end our last evening in Cochin.