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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ancestral Mangalore villages and exotic Kochi revisited in 2016 due to default of "Samudran Lakshwadeep tour"

Lakshwadeep Islands, Leh & Ladakh and  North East India was on my local tour itinerary  for bragging rights of having toured the entire country in a lifetime.Few Indians are privileged to have seen the entire important city's ,locales and cultural diversity of the sub-continent India.Decided to tour exotic Lakshwadeep  Islands and had booked in December 2015  with "SPORTS(Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports)" for the Lakshwadeep 5 day "Samudran Package tour(7-3-2016 to 11-3-2016)" as also the necessary train tickets and a return air flight ticket from Kochi to Mumbai.Planned to spend two  days visiting my Paternal and Maternal uncles, aunts and cousins in ancestral villages, a repeat of my 2008 tour, In 1983 joined my first ship "M.V.Karnataka" at Mangalore port and spent a month touring Mangalore and discovering the city as a young 23 year old "5/E/O(Fifth Engineer officer").Booker prize winner Arvind.Adiga best known for his Booker prize winning novel  "White Tiger" completed his basic education in  Mangalore having studied in St  Alloysius college which i toured during my ship's stay in 1983.His novel "Last man in Tower" based on Mumbai's massive building and slum redevelopment scheme   had characters, locales and situations which i could literally picturize .How could a author brought up in rustic surroundings and later emigrating to Australia have written such a authentic novel on Mumbai's real estate shenanigans
MUMBAI TO MANGALORE KONKAN RAILWAY  ROUTE :- Most Scenic train route with 92  tunnels.

 .As a blogger myself  decided to see the real estate changes in Mangalore and the ancestral villages.One major change  that i observed in 2008 was the disappearance of forest land and abandoning of  rice cultivation by most villagers.My original itinerary was  of spending two days  in ancestral villages  and finally  a onward  train journey from Udupi  to Kochi to board the ship "M.V.Kavaratti". I had  flown to Cochin (Kochi)  from  Bombay(Mumbai) in 1986 to join the Mogul Line ship "M.V.Lok Palak"  as 4/Eng/Off(Fourth Engineer Officer)  and hence had vague memories of this  beautiful island city.That  was decades ago  and akin to business travel i was directly driven from  Cochin  airport to the ship and hence just got a glimpse of Cochin later renamed Kochi.During the decades  Cochin (Kochi)  as well as Mangalore had topographical  changes  as has Bombay(Mumbai) since 1983 when i first set sail from the Port of Mangalore to earn my living as well as discover the World as a "Marine Engineer".
To my utter disbelief and disappointment received a E-mail  on Thursday(25-2-2016)about the cancellation of the entire "Samudran Package tour" as the ship "M.V.Kavaratti"  was in dry-docks for repairs.As a gambler Investor  accustomed to shocks and disappointments i quickly decided to alter  my tour  itinerary sans the jinxed "Samudran Package tour". THE SHOW MUST GO ONN !
Parents ancestral villages of Barkur and Mabukala  situated  mid-way between Udupi and  Coondapoor

Thursday(3-3-2016) :- Had booked  a train ticket in advance  on the "12619/Matsyagandha Express" on 8-12-2015 ! Checked into  Coach S12/Seat 52  on platform No 5 at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Kurla. Train departure was punctual at 1530 hrs but after that began one of the slowest train journeys in my life.  As a bookworm I always carry some reading material with me on tours and this time it was the autobiography of Billionaire daredevil adventurer/Businessman Sir Richard.Branson titled "Losing my virginity".A comfortable partly empty coach due to the off-season as it was examination time for students in Mumbai and most parts of India.
Slowest  Konkan Train journey from Mumbai to  Mangalore by "Matsyagandha Express".Crossing the "Sharavathi River".Please don't try this "SELFIE"  on trains .

                                                                                                                            Friday(4-3-2016)  ARRIVAL BARKUR :-Breakfast  was at Madgaon station at  approximately 0645 hrs in the morning  at which time i should have been at Uncle William's home in Barkur village.  As a professional Gambler/Investor the basic of survival is adjusting to situations and circumstances even if its a negative aspect.Limit your losses and time was my  loss on this delayed train journey.Savoured the beautiful Konkan train journey in the morning making use of the delay. On inquiries with the T/c  came to know that the railway tracks near Kankavali station  in Maharashtra  was under repair and hence the unbelievable delay of the train.The Konkan railway journey between Mumbai and Mangalore  is considered one of the most scenic train journeys in India. After Madgaon Station  it was a  morning view of  the beautiful Western Ghats on east  side of the train while the sea coast view was on the west. Spotted fish and prawn cultivation farms along the coast also crossing through numerous tunnels.The Murdeshwar temple statue  is a majestic landmark seen from the train  while approaching Murdeshwar station.Thankfully the weather was pleasant and although my compartment  had more of lady passengers did strike a conversation with a few lady passengers and understood the terrain and landmarks.Finally  reached Barkur station  at 1100 hrs after one of the slowest train journeys from Mumbai. The "Matsyagandha Express " was 5 hours late and instead of 0600 hrs it was 1100 hrs  arrival time  in Barkur..
Arrival "BARKUR STATION".
                                                                                                                                               .On arrival at Barkur station was greeted by cousin  Charles(Martin).Furtado's friend and house care-taker Mr Peter.D,souza.It was Mr Peter.D'souza who once saved me from drowning in the early 1970's while we cousins were swimming in the Sita Nadi river of Barkur. Yes, seems destiny has favoured me as future events unfolded over the decades  and akin to a cat still living dangerously having used ----lives ! ..En-route  Peter stopped by at  his residence and i met his aged mother , wife and daughter.Nostalgic days of swimming and hunting birds with a air-gun in the 1970's.
Uncle William's Palatial "Barkur  Ancestral Farmhouse(2016)".

                   Next heading towards Uncle William's home came across  a large beautiful Bungalow  and spotted Mr Arthur.Furtado sitting on the Bungalow verandah.Stopped the vehicle and visited Arthur's palatial ancestral house "Ashirwad" that was rebuilt to modern 21st century design without the famous "Mangalore tile" roof's..The "FURTADO's" of Barkur village are all related and Arthur's father late Mr Joseph.Furtado and my dad Louis.J.Furtado  were cousins having migrated to Bombay from Barkur village in the 1940's  to seek their fortunes as did most Indians of that era...Met Arthur's mother who is almost ninety and sadly partially blind due to age. Dad told me that uncle  late Mr Joseph.Furtado was a Hindi film fanatic and won't be surprised if he named his house "Ashirwad" after filmstar Rajendra.Kumar's Bungalow "Ashirwad" which was later purchased by  one of my favourite stars Rajesh.Khanna..After the brief visit we headed through the small one-horse town of historical Barkur  into the former rice field  village towards Uncle William's house .
Lone pair of "Plough Buffaloes" in Barkur Village.

                                                                                                                               During my last visit in 2008 had observed the total decline of rice cultivation and this time was baffled to see a former rice village being transformed into a farmhouse bungalow resort village. New bungalows sprouted on what was once pristine and beautiful rice fields."CHANGE IS PERMANENT" and wasn't Bombay once a tiny fishing village ? My only grouse is that if most  Indian villages transform  into luxury farmhouse villages with backwaters akin to sea-facing apartments in Mumbai  then what would be the future of the agriculture Industry in the Country ? Why can't Barkur and other villages produce wealthy farmers rather then convert fertile farmland into non-productive housing schemes ?
New "Swimming Spot"  in Barkur village.

                                                                                         Akin to producing Billionaire Industrialists in City's is it not possible to produce millionaire  farm owners in villages  by introducing mass scale mechanized farming as in the developed Country's ? U.S President Jimmy.Carter was a peanut farmer and the Bush family are involved in farming .This is my debate, case-study   and opinion based on my observation of the decline and gradual extinction of agriculture as a agrarian Industry in South Karnataka, my parent's ancestral villages.Entered the century old farmhouse with its signature "MANGALORE TILE" roof that about decades ago was one of the largest houses in the vicinity  surrounded by lush paddy fields.Uncle William at 90 years of age and aunt Celina in her 80's  are living testimony that village life is the ultimate lifestyle for a long fruitful life.In the ultimate analysis Its not how long a life you have lived but the quality of your life lived that counts 
Crossing the bridge to "Bennekudru".

.Celebrity lawyer Mr Ram.Jethmalani and cine star late Dev Anand are my role models for the ultimate graceful  ageing  to a long life and closer to home its agrarian  Uncle William.Furtado. If i live to 90 years then you know my role models..After the normal personal talks in Konkani language  explored the farmhouse vicinity.Got acquainted to the two house dogs named "Blessie" and "Blackie" as also the cute two house cats.Cats in farming villages  are bred strictly for controlling the rat population of the farmhouses where  rice grain and pulses is stored after the harvest  for normal daily consumption.Unlike our city bred pampered house cats these cats are not named by the house owners which shows the hierarchy of cats in comparison to farm dogs among normal village folk.Rang up maternal Uncle Mr Godwin.Gonsalves of my arrival in Barkur briefly informing him of my tour agenda.Had a swim in the "Sita river " of Barkur  which was at a different location from the spot of our youth in the 1970's/80's.Paternal Cousins  Charles(Martin) and Ronald  were elder to me while Clara,Wilson, Nelson,Late Daffney,Johnson,Reshma and Jaison .Furtado were younger than me.Young Daffney.Furtado expired in her childhood in a freak accident when a tree in the farmhouse estate fell on her.Swimming and hunting with the air-gun was the norm in the 1970's in  Barkur during school vacations.Today in 2016 Mr  Charles.Martin.Furtado , a bachelor is a established businessman in Mumbai while Ronald.Furtado settled in Delhi is a father of  three daughters and also a grand-father ! Wilson.Furtado is a I.T professional, married and settled in Bangalore.Sisters Clara and Reshma whom i haven't met since childhood are married have children  and are settled in Delhi and Bangalore respectively.In 2016.Nelson, Johnson and Jaison have all  been ordained as priests, rarest of rare cases of 3 members of the same family joining the priesthood in India or the World. Uncle William and aunt Celina live all alone in the huge mansion house akin to a childless couple .This is the case with majority of Catholic families in ancestral villages of Udupi and Mangalore, just elderly folks living in large palatial bungalow houses with their children having migrated to Indian city's or foreign Country's. Only hope that akin to the Jews migration from India  to the promised land Israel  that decades from 2016  Barkur Catholics  do not become extinct as every subsequent generation migrates to City's or foreign Country's.Sand dredging has made  certain parts of the river deep and reclamation of uncultivated farmland  by forest thorns and bushes  made once accessible river locations of the 20th century  inaccessible by foot  in 2016 !   
"Om Shree Coir Industry" in Bennekudru.

                                                                                               Yes, Change is permanent either for the good or bad.and the village of childhood and teenage memories had changed beyond recognition.Weather was pleasant and the river dip after the closure of "M.G.M pool" in Mumbai due to water scarcity was a relief.Uncle William's farmhouse is huge and consists of two storeys,, the first floor always a storage loft  and never used for  living during my childhood or teenage years. I was scared of ghosts, ,spirits,black magic talk  and hence decided to make this abandoned floor my temporary residence to conquer my fear of ghosts , etc. A gangster might threaten me or enemies might hurt me   but a ghost frightens the daylights out of  me. Ha Ha Ha Hee hee Hee ? My motto in life is ,quote, " Every day in your life try to do one thing that scares you either  economically or physically and soon you will be fearless ".
Kulamahastri Temple  devotee offerings of coconuts.

                                                          Uncle William and Aunt Celina had employed a lady domestic help named Sugandi  for preparing meals and cleaning part of the huge farm-house.Lunch was "Mackarel Curry(Bangda)/Rice", the specialty being the "Boiled rice" .After lunch went to the first floor which was akin to a Government  wild-life sanctuary guest-house.In Mumbai i live a luxurious middle-class life in a plush apartment cum office and hence decided to get back to tough living which this abandoned first floor mansion farmhouse offered.After having quit the shipping Industry barring treks and a few  dare-devil extreme adventure sports a la Sir Richard.Branson   its  a typical "White-Collar" lifestyle transformation into a "Internet geek"
"KULAMAHASTRI TEMPLE(Mogaveera temple)

                                                                                               .After a short rest  decided to explore the historical town of Barkur with a total  Cosmopolitan outlook and not through communal blinkers..At approximately 1500 hrs walked the short distance across the uncultivated fields towards  the main town square  and on the way spotted a pair of buffalo's tethered in a field.This was akin to sighting a tiger in Barkur ! During my youth Grandparents and later uncle William owned buffaloes and these drought animals  were a common sight in fields along with cows  during the dry  season.Approached a buffalo who stared back at me as i was a alien to them.Clicked a few photo's as they could be totally extinct in this part of Barkur village in the near future.
Bridge linking Bennekudru and Pandeshwar on Sita Nadi
                                                                                                                                                    Sadly all plough buffaloes finally end their days as "Buffalo meat"  for non-vegetarians  including my diet and India is one of the World's largest exporter of Buffalo meat.A freak dachshund mix breed dog attracted my attention and was surprised at the lineage of this cute dog.Who were the parents of this freak dog that was totally out of place in this village setting .Pedigree dogs are difficult to breed in villages  unless kept as a  showcase luxury by wealthy landowners akin to owning race-horses in city's...After viewing these rare pair of buffaloes made my way to the village town..and came across the landmark technicolour Bungalow of the most prominent and oldest  wealthy  Muslim family in Barkur village. 
"Hotel Prabhath"Typical Barkur village style topography.

                                                                                                                           They called him "Saiba" during my youth, the normal local Konkani  name for wealthy  Muslims. A  recent addition was a  tiny mosque near this palatial house.Walked along the narrow town square, a miniature European town square in neatness and cleanliness with a Asian topography and culture.As a travel name-dropper please excuse me for the comparison..Mangalore and South Kanara towns are considered the cleanest in India as also having the highest literacy rate.Decided to have a local snack at the local village cafe, "Hotel Prabhath" situated round the corner street..As a glutton relished the "Dossa/Chutney", typical  Hindu Mangalorean Konkani cuisine exported all over the World  including Mumbai in "Udupi Hotels"  named  after the town of Udupi.
House ruins  in Barkur. Site for  new Riverside Bungalow ?

                                                                                                               Made inquiries about " Kulamahastri Temple" popularly known as the "Mogaveera Temple " since its worshipers belong to the Mogarveer(Fisherfolk) community of coastal karnataka.A customer in the tiny hotel, gave me directions to this historic temple that is over 1000 years old and which was recently renovated in 2006.Made my way out of the hotel  and had  a long straight walk  from Barkur town Square  along the narrow village pathway  past the girls school , large and small farmhouses and finally reaching the banks of the Sita river..Crossed a short bridge over the Sita river and entered Bennekudru  village on the other side Walked along the bank of the river and came across a coir manufacturing factory.The "Om Shree Coir" factory was approximately 42 years old and definitely the oldest Industry in the vicinity. Coconut husk was passed through a shredding machine with the end product being coir. Definition of a model cottage Industry. 
Entrance to  St PETERS CHURCH(Barkur).

                                                     Little further ahead  on a ground next to the river was a huge pyramid of dry coconuts which was religious offerings by devotees to the "KULAMAHASTRI TEMPLE"..The "Siddhivinayak Temple" situated  approximately 400 meters from my residence at Prabhadevi  in Mumbai  is considered the third wealthiest temple in India with offerings in precious metals and cash.I have literally witnessed the growth of Siddhivinayak Temple from a small common  shrine in 1975 to a pilgrimage  temple  of  wealthy and poor. Hindu's. The  historic "Kulamahastri temple" was unique in physically depicting the wealth offered by devotees in the form of coconuts which is later auctioned and converted to cash..Entered the temple precincts  but did not enter the temple.
Oldest modern Bungalow (Saiba) on Barkur town road.

                                                    Photographs as usual and strolled along the Bennekudru river bank noticing a tiny heart shape island situated in the midst of the narrow river  sandwiched between Pandeshwar  and Bennekudru villages. On inquiries  was told that this tiny island suddenly rose from the river bed  about 3 decades ago which could be due to a earthquake.Have to verify the facts and wonder if this river island was for sale ! Imagine a bungalow house on this tiny plot of land surrounded by the Sita river.Made my way back to Barkur , a long tedious walk with my legs feeling the strain. Barkur main town centre is called "Kalchapra" named after   a historic temple monument at the site.. The main bus-stop , post office, shops , fish market and thirst quenching liquor shops are all in Kalchapra vicinity.Walked  to Kalchapra and on the way came across late Mr John.D'souza's(Wagh Johnny) small  bungalow house situated on the main town road akin to plush Arthur.Furtado's residence.
"BARKUR MAIN TOWN CENTRE ROAD".

                                                                     He got the nick-name "Wagh Johnny(Tiger Johnny)"  as he once entered a dry well while trying to track a cow in Barkur. Instead of a cow he came face to face with a tiger  that mauled him and was lucky to survive and get the nick-name.He was my dad's contemporary and its surprising to see that Barkur in 2016 had a  lack of prey buffalo's and cows let alone leopards or tigers ! The D'souza family  lived on the first floor at  our previous residence "Haji Ismail Gani Building" in Byculla in Mumbai .His son Martin.D'souza and me belonged to the same age group of the "Byculla Boys" whose leader was Mr Trevor.Carvalho now residing in London. During my childhood/teenage  years  we played marbles, spun tops and flew kites unlike the Internet/Smart phone millennium  generation that plays computer games and less of "Street Games". 
"SNAKE TEMPLE" in Barkur main town.
                                                                                                                                                          A honest confession is that Martin.D'souza(Psycho Martin) scared the daylights out of us during our games for he was totally unpredictable  when angry or on the  losing side .At times he would throw  stones besides hurling the choicest porn bad language  now common vocabulary in the Internet era.Decided to just stop along the way and inquire about the D'Souza';s but found the house locked.Made my way to the only internet cafe in Barkur town situated on the first floor of a small building facing the Kalchapra monument..The "Sri Amma Communications Centre" was a cosy Internet cafe having just 2 internet cubicles with modest charges of Rs 20/hour.In 2008 during my brief visit to Barkur the Internet facilities were pathetic with power outages at the only internet cafe in town. 
Historic stone carvings in Barkur.

                                                                                                                                    This time it was excellent with quick  and continuous connectivity thanks to back-up power supply through Inverters. Power outage in Barkur and other villages of South Karnataka are a fact of living and the "Inverter" has made a difference for common electric supply during power outages.The Internet cafe closed at 1800 hrs and hence could just utilize 30 minutes of browsing and blogging.At 1800 hrs made my way back towards home and on the main road came across Mr Arthur.Furtado seated on the balcony of his palatial bungalow.Had a conversation with him also inquiring about the D'souza family and surprised to know that "Psycho Martin" was married and lived in the ancestral family  house. People change over the decades  and "Psycho Martin" had become a family man over the decades since we last met as teenagers in the 1970's  either flying kites, playing marbles or spinning tops. Byculla of the 1960's and 1970's was also the future nursery for some of the household name gangsters of India and awaiting to read the true life book  titled "Byculla to Bangkok" by crime writer Hussain Zaidi. In  main Barkur town the two most prominent modern  bungalows were Mr Arthur.Furtado's ancestral  "Ashirwad" and the Muslim "Saiba" bungalow at the end of  the main town road.
"KALCHAPRA MONUMENT" :- Main Town of Barkur.

                                                                                                                           Purchased some eggs, bananas , butter and bread on my way home.It was eerily quiet in the huge mansion farmhouse once the sun set and darkness took over the vicinity.Just 3 people in the entire house with the two dogs and two house cats.Domestic help Sugandi  doesn't  stay overnight and hence aged Uncle and aunt have to care for themselves at night.After decades  attended the one hour rosary prayer  recital by Uncle and Aunt bringing back memories of youth holidays  when this same house was packed to capacity with grandparents,Uncle's children and his guests from Bombay now Mumbai. How times have changed and today this same house resembles the typical Parsi mansions seen in Panchgani  with just a few care-takers or family members inhabiting the palatial bungalow. 
Uncle William.Furtado (Ancestral) Farm-house in 2016.
                                                                                           The same applies to my living status in Mumbai, a lone bachelor in a large furnished plush house.Thats life.Change is permanent. After recital of the rosary uncle and aunt had their dinner while i relished the Elaichi bananas.Before sleeping had a torch light walk around the estate in pitch darkness hoping to spot some wild-life or snakes..Nothing sighted and bidding goodnight to the elders made my way to the first floor hall and into my corner room..Akin to the "Exorcist" i was fighting my own demons of freeing myself from fright of ghosts, spirits and tales of  "Black Magic" !.Ha Ha Ha Hee hee Hee ! Strangely i felt fearless and did get a good nights 4 hour sleep although passing traffic through the narrow village road  situated approximately 50 meters from the house  circumference  did create occasional disturbances.My residence in Prabhadevi in congested Mumbai was quieter in the dead of the night than once upon a time agrarian village Barkur..Yes change is permanent and a once hauntingly quiet village was gradually developing into a farmhouse  township.
"MABUKALA BRIDGE(Highway NH66) as viewed from mum's (Gonsalves family) ancestral  house. locale.

Saturday(5-3-2016(Barkur) :-  At 0530 hrs  Woke up officially to the Muezzin's call for prayers although i was awake much early after my average 4 hours of sleep in 24 hrs ! 
Mr Peter.Furtado  House:"Gonsalves family"  former home.

                                     At 0600 hrs the Church bells of "St Peters Church" rang and daylight was visible. As usual went into the farmhouse estate and admired  the beautiful morning with the constant chirping  of different birds which i couldn't identify.After my normal washing  did some bird-watching and was lucky to see a flock  of peacocks walk through the farm estate.This scenario never existed during my youth or even eight years back during my last visit to Barkur  in 2008.Changes in the village topography from agrarian rice cultivated fields to now open abandoned field wasteland  have caused  peacocks to increase their territory.
Lunch at Cousin Oswald.Gonsalves house 

   This species of birds  were previously confined to the higher hills away from the paddy fields  that had a topography of trees.Cormorants and Peacocks were two new species of birds that made Barkur village their home after a decrease in rice cultivation and gradual disappearance  of fields After breakfast rang up  Mr Peter D'souza requesting  for supply of  water through water tankers to the farmhouse.A tank load of water cost Rs 500 and definitely expensive on a monthly basis.A strange phenomenon in Barkur village was the total absence of fresh water  in the vicinity of Uncle William's residence since the time this house was built over a century ago.The land itself  when dug to various depths didn't have any water table although sea water from the river canals is all over the  farm estate ! 
Hungarcutta Fishing port.

                                           My grandparents and even Uncle William's family  had a terrible time during summer months in carting water from wells situated near Barkur town which is at a higher ground level and has a water table.In recent years the local Village Panchayat supplied tap water through pipes which is occasional and erratic and hence the same was deficient for home consumption if the household consisted of a large family.Water scarcity could be the main reason for now redundant rice fields not being converted to palatial village farmhouses.My agenda for the day was to visit my maternal ancestral home in Mabukala which now had a new owner Mr Peter.Furtado  and a new house built on the original over a century old farmhouse. Photographs of the original  Mabukala house is in my 2008  blog(Read older posts). 
"TEMBA SHIPYARD" at Hungarcutta.

             .After breakfast dressed up as usual and headed to Kalchapra for boarding the bus to Brahmavara. Bus services are excellent and at 0800 hrs boarded the bus to Brahmavara.The road from Barkur  was the same familiar road  of decades but after crossing the Barkur  river bridge and entering Barkur Bypass road near the Akashvani radio station was into totally unfamiliar sights.The modern 21st century "NH66" highway  had totally transformed the complexion of  the once familiar narrow highway with its roadside stalls. On reaching Brahmavara bus stop was totally confused as the previous local bus depot was totally overshadowed by the highway over-bridge with once familiar sights of 2008  non-existing in 2016.  
21st Century "MABUKALA BRIDGE HIGHWAY NH66"
                                                                                                                                                That's rapid topographical changes in town development with the "NH66" highways changing the lives and livelihood of village and town folk displaced by its increase in width.On reaching Brahmavara bus depot alighted the bus to board the connecting bus to Mabukala village.Received a phone call from maternal cousin Mr Oswald.Gonsalves inquiring about my whereabouts as Uncle Godwin had informed him of my arrival in Barkur. Boarded the bus to Mabukala on the opposite side of Brahmavara Depot  and during the short drive to Mabukala  was surprised at the sight of the broad new National Highway-66 which was similar to the Mumbai-Pune expressway. 
"Barkur By-Pass Road " 

                                           On passing Mabukala bridge got a glimpse of the iconic "Mabukala farmhouse"  situated on the East side of the bridge while travelling North to Mumbai. The "Mabakula Bridge" was built across the farmland of Maternal Graqndfather and the East side of the bridge was the family's original ancestral farmhouse for over a century.Mr Peter.Furtado the new owner of the estate had demolished the ancestral house and had built  a new farmhouse on the same foundation  with a identical exterior to the original Gonsalves farmhouse.On reaching Mabukala bus stand met cousin Oswald waiting with his bike and after the normal greetings decided to visit Mr Peter.Furtado's residence at Mabukala for a tour of long forgotten memories
.
KalChapra Bus Stand in Barkur.

                                                                                                      At approximately 0915 hrs we were at Mr Peter.Furtado's farmhouse compound and was surprised to see not much exterior changes in the farmhouse design  by the new owner..Mr Peter.Furtado welcomed me and we had a long talk on the small breakwater hill facing the  Sitanadi river."Mabukala Farmhouse estate" was akin to owning a small island as this was the only house in the vicinity on the East side of the Mabukala bridge.The  recent 21st century broadening of the "NH66 Highway"  resulted in villagers owning land near the old Highway losing  the same to the Government which also included vast tracts of the "Gonsalves Family" farmland.The Government compensation for the land was excellent  and hence  the highway construction faced no roadblocks or litigation's .The "Felix.Lewis Family" of Upoor lost their entire ancestral farmhouse to "NH66 Highway" ! Fond memories of the 1970's when this part of the farmland and adjoining forests was my air-gun hunting ground for birds.Maternal senior Cousin Steven.Anthony.D'silva was my co-trekker along with junior cousins Pentolein and Oswald during some of the hunting treks.Cousin Pentolein expired from Pneumonia at a young age and today we all are in different stages of our life.Had a walk along the now abandoned "Prawn Cultivation farm"  and to my surprise spotted a lone dog enjoying a dip in the marshy abandoned prawn farm that had stagnant river water and was the size of a football field.The dog ran away on spotting us and seems it could have been hunting for crabs or fish in the hot  morning Sun.This Prawn farm was a entrepreneur effort  by Uncle Godwin.Gonsalves and was a tourist attraction for vehicles passing along "NH66 Highway" as it was a novelty in the locality besides being on the main Mumbai-Mangalore highway route..It was a enterprising risk by my Uncle that initially was profitable but later was a colossal loss due to excessive borrowing to recover previous losses.   
Sand dredging canoes at Mabukala Sitanadi river.
                                                                                                                                                     A la Vijay.Mallya  "Kingfisher Airlines" type failed venture finally resulting   in selling of the original  iconic "Gonsalves Family" farm estate to Mr Peter.Furtado  nota   relative of   the "Barkur Furtado's"..That's life.During my child-hood and youth after arriving in Bombay from Kenya in 1968 holidays meant annual vacations to Dad's and mum's ancestral villages of Barkur and Mabukala .We cousins,Uncles, aunts and initially Grandparents enjoyed like one big huge extended joint family in this rural culture of Barkur and Mabukala ..Till joining shipping in 1983 i could count the city's travelled in India besides the normal  villages of Barkur and Mabukala !History and geography fascinated me in school and even if not a "Marine Engineer" i would have definitely been travelling country's or City's maybe as a tour entrepreneur as i do now on my own cost.
Local village "Toddy Shop".

                                                                              Today in 2016 having toured 52 country's and 202 city's it was real nostalgia recollecting the simple pleasures of village life holidays.The Gonsalves and Furtado Families of the 21st century are scattered all over India and the U.S.A and Canada with  Uncle William.Furtado's "Barkur Farmhouse" being the last symbol  of my parental ancestral  lineage as the "Mabukala Farmhouse" has now become history under a different owner.At approximately 1015 hrs we bid Mr Peter.Furtado goodbye and rode to the west side of the bridge which was the residence of late Uncle Tellespore .Gonsalves. Late Uncle Telespore's small farmhouse  is the last symbol in Mabukala village of the once influential "Gonsalves  Family" who in their heydays  donated property on which the present Sastaan Church is built ! The last time i had visited the house in 2008 had met uncle Telespore, aunt Bibiana  brothers Oswald  and Hubert but this time the house was locked. In 2014 Uncle Telespore expired at the age of 84  and the house is  inherited by his youngest son Mr. Hubert.Gonsalves and his family. 
Village "Toddy Shop".Authentic pure coconut "TODDY".

Both brothers Oswald and Hubert are  auto-mechanic entrepreneurs having their own independent automobile electrical repair shops.Hubert was at work and his two kids, a son and daughter  at school.Strolled around the small farmhouse situated at the edge of the river on the west side of Mabukala bridge and having a small sand beach..Sand dredging from this river bed is a cottage industry  and noticed a large number of canoe boats.Lots of Brahminy kites in the vicinity and also spotted a beautiful black cat akin to a panther.At about 1100 hrs we left for Oswald's residence in Hungarcutta.it was a long ride and on the route stopped at a Toddy shop but the same was not in stock.Purchased a chicken for lunch at Mabukala broiler  chicken shop and remember the days when chickens were bred at  village homes and cold storages or broiler chicken shops non existent in ancestral Barkur and Mabukala  villages..At approximately 1145 hrs reached  Cousin Oswald's small bungalow house in Hungarcutta with its large courtyard.. Age had taken its toll on aunt Bibiana  and she seemed to suffer from memory loss.
Uncle Godwin's former abandoned "PRAWN FARM" 

                                                                                       Met Oswald's eldest daughter while his other two daughters were at his sister Premila.Almeida's residence in Baipadi.Oswald decided to collect his kids from his sister's residence and we drove in his car towards Brahmavar and much further to Baipadi.Cousin Premila.Almeida had recently built this small bungalow house similar to Oswald's, large and spacious with a large compound.After the normal talks bid Premila goodbye and we drove back home to Hungarcutta along with the kids.On the way purchased fresh  toddy.At Oswald's house lunch was chicken along with toddy as a thirst drink.Excellent.At 1415 hrs decided to call it a day after a grand lunch and toddy .Oswald decided to accompany me and we rode on his bike to Hungarcutta fishing port which is close to his residence. Was surprised to see a small full fledged shipyard "Temba Shipyard" at Hungarcutta  which was a steel prefabrication factory  for  off-shore vessels and barges.There was  also a small barge building shipyard a little further away from the large "Temba Shipyard". 
21st century modern Brahmavarta.

                                 There were a few fishing launches docked along the small port wharf. A beautiful small fishing port.From Hungarcutta it was a long drive past nostalgic Mabukala bridge to "Barkur By-pass Road" where i alighted thanking Oswald for his hospitality.Immediately managed to get a bus and at 1500 hrs was at Kalchapra.It was a long walk in the blistering afternoon Sun from Kalchapra to the farmhouse and a cone ice-cream was my thirst quencher  for part of the way.While walking through the road passing through the fields spotted a tractor.Walked towards the tractor and seemed to recognize the face of  Uncle William's neighbour Mr Harry.Lobo who was  giving instructions to the tractor driver.Mr Harry.Lobo was the only Christian farmer in the vicinity still cultivating a few fields and this time he was using a tractor. While conversing with Mr Harry. Lobo  a young man known to him  came across our path and inquired my credentials.Seems akin to Mr Harry.Lobo being the last Catholic farmer in the vicinity so also Mr Arthur.D'souza .was the only Catholic owning a pair of plough buffalo's for tilling land on a hire basis akin to the tractor. 
Tractors replacing Buffalo's in Barkur.

                                                                                                                                The pair of buffalo's i had filmed yesterday were his buffalo's and definitely the last in the vicinity which was gradually evolving into a farm house residential village from a former totally rice farming village.later walked the short distance to uncle's palatial farmhouse and decided to go for a swim in the river. Had a dip in the river, very refreshing after the hectic day.At 1630 hrs returned back home and after a brief rest walked back to Barkur town.Strolled around the small town centre on the opposite  of Kalchapra. Came across Hindu temple monuments and realized the reason for Barkur's importance in Udupi district as it once was a flourishing kingdom and a temple town.Later walked too Kalchapra and spent half an hour at the internet cafe.
Landmark "THOMAS LOBO FARMHOUSE" ruins in Barkur.

                         Later  visited "Prabhath hotel" and ate some delicious  hot Dossa/Chutney snacks. On my way back along the now familiar countryside pathway suddenly observed a large empty palatial farmhouse in ruins  identical to uncle William's farmhouse. Clicked photo's and while doing the same the residents  living in the small bungalow facing this palatial abandoned house got angry at my photography and inquired my credentials.On reaching home made inquiries with Uncle William and realized that the abandoned house ruins belonged to a certain  Mr Thomas.Lobo(Dulciene Lobo) whose present ancestors lived in Bangalore.Seems after the death of the patriarchs of this house the tenants took over part of the land or either purchased it and presumably the house opposite this abandoned filmy style mansion belonged to the tenants. No doubt my photography disturbed them as there could be some litigation in progress between the tenants and the heirs to the palatial farmhouse.
Dry river canal  on Uncle William's Farmhouse estate.

                                                                                                      Akin to tenants usurping rental flats in Mumbai before the present tenant laws came into force i so also in villages many wealthy land owners have lost land rented to tenants or given for safe-keeping."THOMAS LOBO(Dulciene Lobo)" case is the most well known case in Barkur as akin to the Furtado family they have also been residents since over a century.The architectural design of the farm mansions of Catholic farmers of Barkur are very similar unlike modern constructions which have cement roofs.Seems there could be many more future "THOMAS LOBO" case studies among Mangalorean Catholics as every younger generation of Mangalorean Catholics leave their ancestral farm mansions and migrate to City's or different Country's.Maternal Cousins Oswald and Hubert.Gonsalves are role models for Mangalorean Catholics to get employed or try entrepreneurship within their own towns or villages as India gradually becomes a economic power. Its a proverb about thinking twice before migration ,quote, " The grass is always green on the other side".
Swim in Sitanadi river  in Barkur.

                 How many of the lakhs of Indians that try their luck to become actors or actresses in Mumbai(Bombay)actually become one in Bollywood ? For every Shahrukh.Khan ,Leslie.Lewis, Madhuri.Dixit or Freida.Pinto  there are how many rejects or suicides due to failure ? Yes, life is not easy but most competitive in City's irrespective of the profession or sex of the person.Would i ever think of migrating to a farm-style mansion living akin to my youth family  inspiration wealthy  uncle Ignatius.Lewis ? No, never ! Although a total loner outdoors man totally in love with nature and travel i feel that  village life would bore me after some time.Would miss my addictive  plays and music concerts if living in any village.Was born in a city and would die in a city.Till then its the occasional wild-life and backpack travel tourism that keeps me busy, active and in touch with the World..After the normal rosary prayer dinner was just some fruits for me on a nature diet.It was a normal nights sleep on the first floor room of this palatial mansion.I had finally got rid of the fear of ghosts and the supernatural.
PHOTO(B) :-  Sunday Mass at  "St Peters Church" in Barkur.
"St Peters Church" in Barkur after normal Sunday Mass.


Sunday(6-3-2016) BARKUR :- Got up early as usual with the Muezzin's call for prayers being the earliest official morning wake-up call followed by the ringing of St Peter's church bells. 

Udupi City on a Sunday Morning.

                          After a quick stroll in the palatial farmhouse estate had  a bathe and got ready to attend Sunday mass.Cousin Charles.Martin.Furtado  has permanently  kept a vehicle in Barkur for his parents and his own  personal use when holidaying in Barkur.I had learn driving decades ago in the 1980's and totally forgot the same as at that time i was employed on ships. Parents wanted a car as a  "Middle-Class Status" symbol in Bombay(Mumbai) but i didn't purchase the same realizing that the car would lie idle in the building compound rusting away while i sailed for months on the high seas. My dad was too old to drive in Mumbai traffic  although he did drive in Jeddah port during his employment  while my  mum was  the typical house-wife. Never took up motorcycling as mum was mortally afraid of bikes and the only child was a precious human ! It was only after mum's death in 2004 that i learnt to ride a motorcycle and at present a total mobike and cycle cruiser hobbyist in Mumbai.My car driving licence was wasted away and realized the importance or re-brushing my driving skills. Car driving skills is  a necessity in the 21st century India  and not a "Middle Class Luxury" as during my era of the 1980's when  a land-line telephone in Bombay(Mumbai) had a premium  waiting period of a minimum of 5 years ! ?. Mr Peter.D'souza  manages and operates this vehicle used for driving uncle or aunt to Church or other important places and driving to St Peter's church for Sunday mass was one such regular  occasion.Mr Peter.D'souza arrived at the farmhouse at 0750 hrs and it was a quick drive along with uncle William to St Peter's church. Aunt Celina stayed at home as she was unwell and en-route we gave a lift to Mr Harry.Lobo and his wife.
Udupi Mosque.

                                                               After decades i was attending Sunday mass at Barkur church and did meet childhood acquaintances..The 0700 hrs mass at St Peter's church in Barkur. had mostly a congregation of ladies and the church filled with worshippers. The mass in Konkani was a bit different in some rituals in comparison to Mumbai masses and after the mass there was a awards celebration in the church for catechism classes teachers and pupils.I am not surprised that my paternal aunt and later three cousins younger than me  joined the Catholic religious order of nuns and Priests as religion forms the base of the Mangalorean  Catholic community.The mass and prize distribution ceremony got over at 0720 hrs and on exiting the church  was surprised at the amount of cars parked in the church compound,, much more than our Worli parish in Mumbai. Barkur is really a wealthy town with high average per-capita income as proven by the car ownership let alone 2- wheeler ownership.
Sri Krishna Mutt" complex.

                                                 Only hope that there is a reverse exodus of  young Mangalorean Catholics from City's to towns or the present generation becoming entrepreneurs or taking up jobs in their own towns as have my maternal cousins Oswald and Hubert Gonsalves. After mass we drove to Kalchapra where we had a delicious breakfast in the most busy restaurant of Barkur. After breakfast bid adieu to Mr Peter.D'souza and Uncle William and walked the short distance to Kalchapra bus stop. Barkur town has improved by leaps and bounds since i last visited in 2008 and  the bus service was excellent.At  0845 hrs boarded a bus to Udupi , the bus ticket being Rs 15 and also getting seating space.It was a pleasant journey on the broad "NH66" highway that resembled the "Mumbai-Pune Expressway".  Passed through the Upoor bridge bringing back youth memories of visiting my mum's uncles houses in Upoor village.The "Lewis Family"  farmhouses  are  all situated within a short walking distance in Upoor village of Udupi district. As a school  student on vacation with mum  we would visit  late Uncle Ignatius .Lewis,Uncle Charles.Lewis and Uncle Felix.Lewis's  farm houses in Upoor. Late Uncle Ignatius.Lewis, a divorcee  who resided in plush  Habib Court at Colaba in Bombay(Mumbai) whom i called 'Colaba Uncle" was definitely the family's first recognized millionaire in a era where a lakh of rupees could buy you a plush flat in Colaba and a landline phone was a status symbol ! 
'FISHING" a common hobby among coastal villagers.

                                                                     He was a former Ballard estate ship passenger terminal  hotelier inheriting a lot of wealth and business contacts from his wife who was a ex-student of  "Cathedral and John Connon School" in Bombay.which produced some of the  the who's who of Industrialists and prominent personalities of India.Late Pakistan  Prime Minister Zulfiqar.Bhutto, author Salman.Rushdie and CNN columnist Mr Rafiq .Zakaria are some of the few illustrious  alumni of this school.Uncle Ignatius.Lewis was a moneylender and a investor in the share market  and   my role model as a kid for trying to achieve and live the wealthy life.First came across share company reports during the rare visits to his residence where his reading books were kept on the coffee table.His annual birthday celebration  in the 1970's/80's at his residence in Colaba was a annual  rare mega celebration. All his relatives in Mumbai attended his birthday party.In his old age he sold his Colaba flat and migrated to Upoor village along with his care-taker Angeline, a extremely  kind and nice lady.None of the family members ever treated her like a care-taker .He  finally lived  the last days of his life in his ancestral farmhouse at Upoor and after the death of his care-taker Angeline this palatial farmhouse is now inherited by his  wealthy two sons and daughter.In 2016 most of  the  Mangalorean community have a average  high per capita income compared to average Indian living standards akin to the Parsi community. .Majority Mangalorean Catholics  are living the  millionaires lifestyle in the 21st century  but Uncle Ignatius.Lewis was definitely the village pioneer to achieving wealth in the city of dreams Bombay akin to my dad Louis.Furtado being a emigration pioneer to a distant country Kenya in the 1940's.
Sri Krishna Mutt temple
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                                                 .Further ahead on the highway saw a few tall buildings and was surprised at the topographical change of Santhakatte  bus centre. It  was the alighting/boarding point for visiting Kallianpur village, the house of mum's sister Mrs Urban.Ferts where i have memories of holidays with maternal  cousins Jayshree,Rocky and Sheela Ferts. Udupi is a short distance from Santhakatte and at approximately 0920 hrs reached Udupi bus stand.Sunday was a holiday and the city wore a deserted early morning look amidst tall concrete buildings akin to a typical Mumbai locale.Udupi is World famous for its "UDUPI VEGETARIAN CUISINE" named after this city  and the famous Hindu temple " Sri Krishna MUtt".Udupi city has the highest per-capita income in karnataka  and is also the birthplace of Syndicate bank  which was fundamental in creating "Reliance Industry".Inquired about my whereabouts with a local shop-keeper and was told that i was in the heart of Udupi city.Decided to visit the "Sri Krishna Mutt" which was a short walking distance from the bus-stop.On the way came across the "Jummia Masjid  mosque", the largest mosque i had seen in Udupi district.
Chariots of Sri Krishna Mutt Temple.

                                                                                                 A little further away was the "Sri Krishna Mutt".My first view of the temple was the majestic chariot in front of the temple and the long line  of  devotees queued  up to enter the temple akin to the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai.Male devotees have to remove their shirts and enter the temple precinct bare chested.The "Sri Krishna Mutt" was founded in the 13th century by the Vaishnava saint Shri Madhavacharya and is a religious pilgrimage temple for Vaishnavas and Dvaitas of the Hindu sect including ISKON..After viewing the temple externally  wandered around aimlessly inquiring about the theaters in Udupi that i visited during the 1970's/60's...Came across a Internet cafe and as usual spent half an hour browsing and updating my columns.
Main entrance for devotees to Sri Krishna Mutt.

                                                                    My next agenda was to visit maternal Uncle Godwin.Gonsalves's residence which also happened to be the day of his birthday.Boarded a auto-rickshaw and headed towards"Padigar Mutt" on Gundubail-Kalsanka road. Udupi was and is a city of Mutts and temples akin to smaller Barkur. town.From Udupi city It was a short drive to "Padigar Mutt". costing Rs 35.On arrival at Padigar Mutt came to a dead end and rung up Uncle inquiring his address.He told me to wait at the spot and that he would .come to collect me on his mobike. Within 5 minutes he arrived on his bike and it was a "Dirt bike ride" along the narrow former rice field  lanes to his small bungalow house.He had purchased this bungalow  from its previous owner  after selling his ancestral Mabukala farmhouse.Met Aunt Kusum and his daughter Maisie along with her young daughter..Spent the morning discussing  various topics and Maisie herself has travelled foreign Country's having visited Greece recently while i was touring Eastern Europe. 
     
"Mother of Sorrows Church" in Udupi.
                                                                                                                                             .Her husband was in the local travel Industry.Lunch was fish curry/fried fish and rice.After a sumptuous lunch discussed kerala backwater tours and Kochi as Aunt Kusum was from Kerala.My next agenda was visiting Kallianpur to see the changes in that locality and also the building "Eden Heritage"  built after demolishing Rocky.J.Ferts bungalow.Mum's Aunt  Mrs Rose.Lewis of Upoor and her  son Ronald along with  sister Gracy.Lewis  were also residing in the same building.Their ancestral bungalow in Upoor  was over-run by the "NH66" highway and hence they purchased a flat.Uncle Godwin decided to come along with me to visit his cousins and aging aunt as well as give me a tour ride of Kallianpur. It was a nice motorcycle ride to Kallianpur  which is a short distance from his residence in Udupi.

Concrete Jungle of Udupi city

                                                                                                        .On seeing "Eden Heritage" building i had to rub my eyes in astonishment  finding it hard to believe that a multi-storeyed  modern building had replaced the decades old Mangalore tile  Bungalow and garden compound  of Aunt Urban.Ferts. Aunt Urban in 2016 is  90 years old residing with her daughters  Mrs Jaishree.D'Brass and Sheela.D'souza in Banaswadi in Bangalore.The  builder had given Aunt Urban cash besides a flat on the first floor of the building and on entering the building was totally impressed by the lay-out and safety gear installed .A complete fire fighting system was installed in the building which had two lifts.Absolute 21st century construction and we entered the lift  alighting on the third floor.There were 6 flats on each floor with a wide passageway.Mr Ronald.Lewis and his sister Gracy were surprised to see me.Was sad to see the once energetic mum's aunt Rose.Lewis confined to the wheelchair, a paraplegic due to old age.Spoke to her and thankfully her mind was normal and active. Later Mr Ronald.Lewis took us to the building terrace which had been built as a auditorium hall, brilliant architectural design. The view of the surrounding countryside was beautiful as this was the tallest building in the vicinity.
"HIGHWAY - NH 66"  :- 21st century roadways
                                                                                          Thanking the Lewis's we made our way out of this beautiful designed building and observed that besides two modern 21st century building Aunt Urban's Kallianpur had not changed much since my occasional  childhood visits to their house.. Saw a advertisement for the construction of another building  on the same periphery as Eden Heritage. Another decade and Kallianpur might be similar to Udupi in having skyrise buildings. Change is Permanent. Strangely the village of Kallianpur has two churches within a short walking distance with "Rosary Church" being close to "Eden Heritage" and the Cathedral "Milagres Church" being a short distance at  the opposite end of Santhekatte junction.Uncle Godwin took me to Milagres Church which is now a Cathedral and under repairs and renovation.The Milagres church was originally established in 1680 and upgraded to Cathedral status in 2012.
Observing Sunset over the Coconut plantations in Barkur.
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                                                Visited the interior of the church that  was being renovated and resembled a absolutely new construction church.Cousin Fr Nelson Furtado's "Pilar Father's" monastery was located just opposite  Milagres Church.Fr Nelson.Furtado was the Vocational  Director of Pilar Father's  and i still picture him as a young kid following us elder Furtado cousin's during swims at the Barkur river  or during  air-gun shoots."Time, tide and age wait for none is very true".Uncle Godwin dropped me at Santhekatte junction where i boarded the bus to Brahmavara. At Brahmavar was lucky to get the connecting bus to Barkur and at approximately 1800 hrs was at "Kalchapra" in Barkur. While walking through the countryside pathway bordering the fields observed a fighting cock and inquired with some young men in the vicinity if cock fighting existed in 2015 !
COCKFIGHTS:- A illegal  gambling village sport.
                                                                                                                                   To my surprise they told me that its a common illegal sport all over the villages and just today on Sunday there were cockfights in mum's ancestral town of Sastan.Farming is vanishing as a occupation and along with it the traditional village sport of buffalo racing called "Kambla". Chickens are easy to breed  and hence the favourite village gambling sport of 'Cock-Fighting" still exists although officially considered a illegal sport..On reaching home decided to explore the vicinity and without disclosing the location was surprised to see a prized "Fighter Cock" bred in a cage while other roosting chickens had a separate cage.It was dusk and getting dark and this bird was a real beauty as are all fighting cocks..On inquiries with the house owner was told that the bird cost Rs 3000.Cock Fighting is a very popular local village sport in South Canara districts of Karnataka specially patronized by the Shetty community.
Authentic "MANGALORE TILE" roof farmhouse.
                                                                            The night was  just the three of us in this century old  farmhouse with aunt Celine watching cable television and uncle conversing with me in my terrible Konkani.The "Inverter" had solved the power outages and a great improvement in Uncle William's farmhouse was the continuous access to electricity.After the traditional rosary in a monastic house that gave the Catholic Church a nun and three priests it was time for dinner.Dinner was the traditional  "Kaunji(Rice soup)" along with authentic fresh crab curry purchased by uncle William.After dinner had a exploratory stroll with my torch in the compound vicinity but failed to spot any wild-life.Had a normal nights sleep on the first floor with occasional disturbances of vehicle movement and the continuous playing of "Baillata(Kathakali dance)"  akin to yesterday night.It was the occasion of "Mahashivratri", a very auspicious festival for Hindu's Hence the all night celebrations of traditional "Baillata(Kathakalli dances)" in the village. 
Morning Mist across uncultivated paddy fields  in Barkur.The village pure air and environment.

Monday(7-3-2016)  Barkur :- My last day in Barkur and Mangalore.Woke up in the morning as usual totally accustomed to the palatial farmhouse estate.
The houseguard and pest controller.
                                                                  Absolutely beautiful in the early morning at dawn with a thick layer of mist in the open empty fields  making visibility difficult akin to smog in our congested city's.Did some early morning bird-watching just from the farmhouse compound with my binoculars and was surprised at the different species of birds sighted some of which i couldn't identify. Today the peacocks didn't take their regular walk but spotted the Caucal(Crow Pheasant), a very common country bird as also Golden Oriole,lapwings,pond herons, egrets, cormorants blackbirds and a purple moor hen.The rarest of rare sightings was a female Paradise fly-catcher literally hunting for its breakfast  on a tree just 50 meters from the farmhouse compound.I had done a complete study of the farm house cats and dogs and admired their simple harmony in living together demystifying the city myth that cats and dogs normally don't get along together.
Barkur  backwater river canals at "Full Tide" 
                                                                                                                                                 Over the decades since childhood  during my holiday visits to Ancestral Mabukala and Barkur i always noticed that the house cats and dogs got along perfectly, a part of farm living.Later in the morning was surprised to see a fisherman arrive on a moped to sell fish at the house.Previously fisher-women would come walking to the house with fresh caught river fish in  baskets on their head.Was aghast to see frozen fish in a ice-box displayed to us akin to Mumbai fish markets.Purchased some fish for lunch.Later recived a phone call from "St Anthony Lodge,Ernakulam" confirming my arrival and also messaging me their lodge address. At  1000 hrs made my way towards the river for a swim on "Mahashivratri day" when the tide would be at its highest.On the way to the river bank  which has a few narrow canals came across a young man catching crabs  on one of the river canals.It was peak high tide and hence the canals were filled to the brim with sea water from the salt water river Sita Nadi.
Sitanadi river at Barkur  on "Mahashivratri Fulltide".
                                                                                                                                                     He had caught one crab and had set a net for another crab.Wanted to purchase crabs from him but it was for his own personal house consumption.Typical village life and living.Harvesting nature for personal consumption and not just random over-fishing  that is depleting most fish species all across the World let alone the tiny Sita Nadi river flowing through villages of Barkur and Mabukala.Saw a fighting fowl in his compound and on inquiry was surprised to know that "Cockfighting" was a popular  illegal gambling sport akin to "Matka" in Mumbai. He told me that bets of Rs 5000 to Rs 10,000 were common among villagers and at times bets of  Rs 1,00,000 per cockfight  was not uncommon when the rich "Shetty Family" hoteliers attended the cockfights.
River bed sand mining.

                                      Christians of the villages  normally never patronize cockfights as the church forbids it for its gambling let alone it being illegal.Cockfights are held in villages on certain auspicious Hindu festivals akin to horse racing in city's, a popular gambling sport among the local villagers.Thanked the young man for his information and headed towards the river.Was surprised at the change in level of the river at peak high tide.Just a few steps from the embankment and i was in shoulder deep still water.Spotted a man in the distance in the middle of the river dredging sand from the river bed. The only human visible in the entire river.Swimming in rivers is dangerous because the still waters make the river seem harmless unlike sea beaches which have waves.The undercurrents in a river are powerful besides there might be sudden abrupt change of depth on the riverbed due to sand dredging or natural water erosion.I myself narrowly escaped drowning in this same river in the early 1970's and just a few weeks back seems a young student drowned in this river while a group of them were swimming.After a brief swim while returning home came across the  canoe boatman unloading the  dredged sand onto the canal bank.. He spoke to me in Konkani and was surprised to meet  Mr Peter.Barnes who was the younger  brother of holiday childhood acquaintance late Mr Michael Barnes who tragically one drunken night drowned in a canal near his house.The Barnes family of the 1970's  were field workers  staying in a small village house close to my grandparents palatial  farmhouse.Seems Michael who was my age became a alcoholic in later life and met his death by drowning one drunken night.His brother Peter had demolished their ancestral house and was now personally building a  new home on the same foundation.In life as you age you make new friends and acquaintances as also lose some old friends and acquaintances..Fr Nelson.Furtado was  to visit his parents today  and decided to walk to Kalchapra to purchase some fish and beers.It was a long walk to Kalchapra and was surprised to spot a lone fisher-woman selling just Mackarels(Bangda) and some other variety of common  fish.
Aunt Celine, Uncle William and self in Barkur house.
                                                                                                                                         While  looking at the fish i suddenly felt someone tap me and at first couldn't recognize Fr Nelson.Furtado whom i had last seen years ago.He had driven from Kallianpur to Barkur on his motorcycle  and after purchasing beers at the wine shop at  Kalchapra junction sat piggy-back on his bike and headed home.It was homecoming for parents as well as son .Later uncle aunt and myself had "Toburg beer" while Rev Fr Nelson.Furtado just gave us company, a teetotaler as are most priests .Rev Fr Nelson.Furtado was Director of the Pilar Fathers Institution at Kallianpur and was previously based in Kolkatta for many years before being transferred to Kallianpur in Udupi District of Karnataka.
Fr Nelson.Furtado & Self In Barkur house

                                                        He inquired about my source of income since he knew i was not employed in the Shipping Industry and hence started a long discussion  on stock and mutual funds investments.Thanks to Rev Fr Nelson.Furtado  i got to know that "MANGALOREAN CATHOLICS" are actually a off-shoot of the "GOAN CATHOLICS" of Goa and not a separate converted regional Catholic community akin to the "EAST INDIANS" of Bombay(Mumbai) who have Marathi as their mother tongue.That's the main reason Mangalorean Catholics have Portuguese surnames and also speak Konkani as a mother tongue and not the local Kannada or Tulu  languages of Karnataka  although  Mangalorean Konkani is in the Kannada script.Got to understand the origins of my own cultural and religious roots. A excellent afternoon and lunch was crab  and fish curry  with rice cooked by domestic help Sugandi.At approximately 1400 hrs cousin Fr Nelson.Furtado said goodbye and left on his motorcycle for his clergy residence at " Pilar  Fathers" in Kallianpur.I had some rest in my cosy first floor loft room and at approximately 1615  hrs packed my portable bag and made my way to the ground floor of the palatial farm-house.My agenda was to travel to Mangalore and meet Sr Noelle Marie(Aunt Daisy) before boarding the "12618/Mangla Lakshwadeep Express" from Mangalore junction railway station.
Manipal.

                                                          Rang up aunt Sr Noelle Marie( Aunt Daisy.Furtado)  who said that she was attending a funeral and hence would be  a bit late at her  nun's accommodation in St Mary's Composite PU College. Bid uncle and aunt a emotional  goodbye and walked all the way to Kalchapra to board the local bus to Udupi. Boarded a bus heading to Manipal  and hence decided to just have a stop at this town before embarking on my onward journey to Mangalore.At approximately 1715 hrs reached Manipal, a concrete jungle university city of India.On the way to Manipal  passed by modern sky-rise buildings built on this hill plateau  and the new multiplex Inox theatre, a new entertainment addition to the twin towns of Manipal and Udupi.On alighting the bus realized that the population of Manipal had increased tremendously since my last visit in 2008 while the main town centre remained the same, a University town and medical health care centre. After a brief stroll around the main city road boarded a Govt KSRTC air-condition bus to Mangalore city.
Kasturba Medical college(Manipal)
                                                                                                                                           The bus ticket was a exorbitant Rs100 but worth the money as it was akin to travelling in a private car.  It was a straight route along the modern "NH66 Highway" .to Mangalore city with toll booths along a certain stretch of this expressway.On passing Mangalore port was filled with nostalgic memories of my maiden voyage from this port in 1983.It was over a decade since i last visited Mangalore. Reached Humpuncutta bus station at approximately 1930 hrs and rang up Aunt Daisy and informed her of my arrival in Mangalore city. She gave me directions to reaching her convent.Boarded a auto-rickshaw at Humpancutta  and after a short drive alighted at Indira Gandhi hospital.Sr Noelle Marie(Aunt Daisy) was waiting for me just opposite the hospital and we walked the short distance to St Marys Composite Pre University College which was also a girls boarding school.
 
On a A/C bus from Manipal to Mangalore.
                                                                                       We sat outside in the school accommodation veranda and discussed family and normal life.In-between our talks boarding  students wished her as they walked around the playground,typical student and teacher relationship. Over the decades Sr Noelle Marie has served in various schools and Catholic religious institutions all over the Country  including a foreign  City , Nairobi .Now she had officially retired  and was  involved in various social services of the Catholic clergy and Church.At approximately 2030 hrs  bid good-bye to aunt and walked towards Indira hospital to board the bus to Mangalore Junction station.Lucky to get a bus and at 2100 hrs was  at Mangalore junction railway station.My train was scheduled for 0130 hrs and just whiled away my time reading adventure/billionaire Industrialist Sir Richard.Branson's  biography.
WORLD FAMOUS CHINESE FISHING NETS OF FORT KOCHI.

Tuesday(8-3-2016) Arrival Ernakulam Kochi :-  Thankfully the  "12618 Mangala Lakshwadeep Express" was on schedule and arrived on platform 1 at approximately 0130 hrs.Checked into S5 compartment and immediately made myself comfortable on lower berth seat No 60,the habitual back-packer traveller.
Arrival Ernakulam, Junction 

Snatched a few hours sleep before daybreak and realized that the train was not house-full as is the case on most trains in India.Made myself comfortable in the next berth that was totally empty and later a young I.T employee Mr Atif.Mohammed entered the berth. Had a conversation with him and got a working knowledge of the lucrative I.T Industry.Thanks to Mr Atif.Mohammed got to see the Kochi airport solar panel  as the train passed along the vicinity, the only airport in India to have total solar electrification.He alighted the train at Alluva station, the station closest to Kochi airport.It was another  half hour train  ride from Alluva  station to Ernakulam South station reaching at 0945 hrs..Ernakulam South was the terminus of this fastest longest distance express  train in India that begins in Nizamuddin  in Delhi and terminates at  Ernakulam South station.Alighted the train and walked out of the station onto the narrow road outside the station.Got a taste of  distinct Kerala street cuisine  eating a Medhuvada//chutney with tea at a popular roadside stall. The chutney consisted of tomato ingredients and not coconut as is normal in Mangalore and Mumbai Udupi restaurants.Sambar(Vegetable curry) was the preferred combination of a Medhuvada snack rather than a chutney.
Ernakulam  "Marine Drive Road".
                                                                                                                        After breakfast boarded a auto-rickshaw and headed towards  "St Anthony's Lodge" situated on Basin street  near Ernakulam vegetable market.The auto driver couldn't locate the right address and he dropped me at the flyover on Marine drive near Basin street the bill being Rs 40.Walked along the congested Ernakulam wholesale vegetable market that  brought back memories of Byculla wholesale vegetable market of the 1970's.It took me quite a while strolling leisurely  around Ernakulam market, Jew Street and Basin road  to finally  find the location of "St Anthonys Lodge", a small prominent building facing the historic  Basin canal..Walked to the first floor and proprietor Mr Raphael.Anthony, a young man  welcomed me to the lodge allotting me room no 2.A neat and clean self-contained room with attached bathe and running fresh water, excellent for the  rental cost/day.
"St Anthonys Lodge" on Basin Road. My Residence'
                                                                                                                                                A authentic backpackers budget travel lodge.After a bathe and change of clothes began the exploration of Ernakulam and Kochi city by inquiring about the location and local bus routes with lodge owner Mr Raphael.Anthony. Planned my first  visit of the day to  the "Holy Cross Senior Citizen's Home"  situated on Judge Mukku street  on the Edapally-Pukattupady road in Ernakulam. If not for the parents of childhood school classmate Mr Biju.J.Karian i would have not been in the "Marine Engineering  " profession.In 1978 on passing from "Kirti College"  in Mumbai Biju's dad  late Mr John.Karian , the Foundry manager of Mazagon Docks Ltd  recommended me for a preferential seat in the " 4-Year Marine Engineering apprenticeship Course" conducted by this prominent Indian shipyard.
Biju's mum Aunty Karian at "Senior Citizens Home".

                 The shipyard admitted Marine Engineer apprentice students on a quota system of  preferential basis with first preference  to employees children and recommendations from shipyard  management and the armed forces establishment.Destiny played a crucial role in my admission into "Mazagon Docks  4-Year apprentice course" as Biju and myself were in college together but Biju didn't appear for HSC-X11 exams in 1978 and hence his dad recommended me for the engineering course in place of him .I was selected in 1978  as Marine Engineer apprentice Nos "12049" in the massive Mazagon Dock Ltd  receiving a monthly stipend of Rs 120 with a yearly increment upto completion in 1982. Biju was admitted the next year  in 1979 and the rest is Marine employment history.Over the decades i did meet Biju's parent's once during his son Yohan's Christening ceremony in Bangalore in the 1990's .Biju's dad Mr John.Karian expired some years ago  and learnt that his mum was in a "Senior Citizen's home" in Kochi and hence it was my priority to just pay her a visit since i was visiting Kochi.
Historic Jew Street in Ernakulam.
                                                                                                 In Mumbai got the address from Biju  through the Internet  and got directions and the bus sequence locally  from lodge owner Raphael.Headed  out of the lodge and walked straight along the  Basin road towards the High Court junction.Waited at the local bus-stop opposite the landmark "Saravan" vegetarian restaurant. Providence favoured me and i boarded a A/C KSRTC bus   to "Lulu Mall" situated at Edapallythe ticket being Rs 21.Was aghast at the congested road traffic of Ernakulam due to its narrow streets as well as mega construction work on the Kochi Metro and overhead  Kochi monorail system.A few years from now  Kochi would be a travel smart city.Reached "Lulu Mall' a landmark in Kochi and India as it is the largest mall in India and also Asia.From Lulu mall in Edapally  boarded another local bus heading to Judge Mukku road
"BASIN ROAD CANAL" once a historic trading channel.

                 At approximately 1215 hrs reached "Judge Mukku Road" and right in front of the bus-stop was the  "Holy Cross Institute" which housed the "Holy Cross Senior Citizens Home".Entered the beautiful exotically clean gardened complex  and inquired about Mrs Karian at the reception. Was directed to "Room Nos 208" on the second floor and on entering the room found it empty.The entire floor resembled a large palatial  private home with rooms. Walking towards a nurse came across a group of aged lady's sitting on a dining table for their lunch.Yes, i did recognize  aunty Mrs Karian seated with her colleagues although she had changed beyond recognition since i last saw her in the 1990's.
At  India's largest Mall "LULU MALL".

                                                                            I spoke to her but she couldn't recognize me and i requested the nurse to take her to her private room where i could talk to her.Seems she has lost a bit of her memory and although she did utter my name i was a total stranger. Took a photograph with my benefactor and requested the nurse to take aunty Karian to the lunch table. Bid goodbye to aunty Karian and her colleagues and headed out of this beautiful and excellently maintained Catholic Old age home.Boarded the bus to " Lullu Mall" and on alighting at the bus stop at   approx 1300 hrs  entered  the plush "Marriott Hotel" situated adjacent to Lulu mall. Its a fetish with me to visit plush hotels in any part of the World and inquire the tariffs as well as view the 5-star designs and landscapes.
Raw Nendran bananas fried into " Banana Chips".
                                                                                                                                            "Marriott Hotel" entrance foyer was typical kerala backwater decor with a wooden canoe having spices , coconuts, etc  displayed  for  tourist and guests. The tariffs were 5-star as usual with Rs 7800 for a room per day without taxes.From the Marriott hotel made the short walk into the famous "Lulu Mall". The Lulu mall  was inaugurated on 10-3-2013  and  is the 89th largest mall in the World and the largest in India On entering the Lulu hypermarket on  ground floor complex was surprised by the neatness and vastness of this part of the mall. Having toured 52 Country's i am no stranger to large shopping complexes and should say Lulu mall was unique by its sheer size , cleanliness and cool air-conditioning.
Boarding Ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi.

                                                    Toured all the floors, typical of any supermarket having designer showrooms and shops  except that this mall was gigantic. On the second floor it has a 9 screen PVR multiplex cinema Tuesday afternoon being a odd working day the massive amusement centre on the third  was empty of kids .There was a massive food court on one of the floors serving various types of cuisines  and four exotic dining restaurants on the second and third floors.This was boring to me as malls are all carbon copies of each other barring  design  and size  with the "High Street Phoenix mall" at Parel in Mumbai being  my backyard entertainment centre , After a brief survey of this gigantic mall entered the ground floor hypermarket, the largest in India and queued at the parcel  food section. Purchased a parcel of a quarter kilo fried rice and quarter kilo duck curry costing  Rs 133 and headed towards the exit ,eager to board the bus back to my lodge.
"CHINESE FISHING NET" in  Fort Kochi.

                           Didn't have to wait long in Edapally  and boarded the common  bus  to High Court. On alighting the bus at the High Court stop  noticed a long queue of locals at a shop and to my surprise realized it was a liquor shop.Sale of liquor is banned in common restaurants and liquor is sold only at a few restricted liquor shops like my latest discovery in Ernakulam.First time in my life  i stood in a queue to purchase a bottle of beer, a hilarious unbelievable situation. In most city's or country's liquor is either totally banned or totally legal  and never in-between as in Kerala.After purchasing a Budweiser beer bottle walked the short straight distance to my lodge alongbasin road  and at approximately 1430 hrs was in 'Room No 2" of "St Anthony Lodge".A excellent lunch with beer as a thirst quencher although the afternoon heat was stronger than Mangalore.Had a short rest in my room and at 1600 hrs began the second leg of my discovery of Ernakulam  Kochi(Cochin) city. Headed out of the lodge into the narrow Basin street and over the short footbridge onto the main  vegetable market road.The Northern end of Broadway,Jew Street and ,Basin Road form the Ernakulam  market that has some buildings that are more than 150 years old Over 2000 shops exist in Ernakulam market  that sell everything from provisions, spices, poultry, fish , vegetables and meat.Very narrow roads crowded with people and wholesale vegetable dealers.
Fresh fish from "Chinese Fishing nets" for Tourist cuisine.
                                                                                                                                                           Most amazing was the sight of heaps of special "Kerala Bananas" that chopped into slices  akin to potato wafers are fried into the world famous yellow colored "Kerala Banana chips". Markets fascinate me and in every country or city i have always habitually window shopped  local markets  akin to visiting 5 star hotels ! Visited the main meat and fish market that resembled Mumbai's Crawford market with a variety of dried fish being sold in the fish section.Here in Ernakulam i was literally living in the heart of  Kerala's largest historic market.From Market road entered the next lane which was "Jew Street" named after the Jewish traders who dominated the spice trade over the centuries  in Cochin.Came across the 'Thekkumbhagom Synagogue" on Jew street that was locked with  a mosque situated in the next by-lane.This abandoned synagogue is maintained by the minuscule  Kerala Jews and was built in the 1930's  while  originally it was actually in existence since  1580 A.D.
Historic Princess Street in Fort Kochi.

                                   Today just  the street  name remains with majority of shops and residences in the locality once owned by Jews having been purchased by other communities after the  majority of Cochin Jews migrated to Israel.Watched the process of preparing Kerala banana chips in one of the shops on Jew Street  and the smell of spices  was intoxicating akin to sipping whisky! From the crowded Market road entered the main "Marine Drive road" which was a wide two way road .On arrival at Ernakulam station I  had alighted the auto-rickshaw  on Marine Drive near Basin road   in order to locate  "St Anthonys Lodge". .Decided  to walk to the ferry terminal.Marine drive promenade has tall buildings facing the Vembanad lake and is Kochi's business centre with large malls, shopping centres and banks.The tall skyscraper Federal building  opposite congested  Market road was my landmark for my stay in Kochi while finding my way back through the jig-saw lanes of Basin and Market road.Walked along the  lake front of Marine drive towards the Ernakulam Ferry terminus.
Historic St Francis Church in Fort Kochi.

                                                                   A beautiful  non-crowded lake front with boats anchored along the causeway.Walked pass the landmark  Hotel Taj Gateway that had its own private boat jetty along the waterfront.No vehicles are allowed on the walkway along the promenade. After approximately 10 minutes of walking reached "Ernakulam Boat Jetty" at 1645 hrs and queued for the common boat ticket to Fort Kochi.The  Ferry ticket was only Rs 4 and it was a pleasant journey on calm waters across the Vembanad lake to Fort Kochi. Passed alongside Willingdon Island  which is the main shipping harbour and within 25 minutes we were at Fort Kochi jetty.Shared a auto-rickshaw with a tourist and after a short drive  along a typical former colonial road was dropped at "Vasco Da Gama Square".The Portuguese , Dutch and English have distinct architectural traditions in street lay-outs and also building constructions and the same was on display in Fort Kochi. The historic St Francis Church was closed as it was past 1700 hrs.The trade mark "Chinese Fishing nets" were just across  Vasco Da Gama  town square along the coast.Walked towards the nearest fishing net structure.which are a tourist attraction but fortunately it was not crowded with tourists.It was 1730 hrs in the evening  when i entered this fixed fishing net installation to witness and record its operation and fish catch on camera and video.
Historic "Koder House(1808)" in Fort Kochi. Now a hotel.

                                        A huge cantilever at least 10 meters in height  has a outstretched 20 meter wide net at one end in the sea while the other end  has large stones suspended by ropes of different lengths   to act as a counter-balance.A electric operated winch with a wire rope   attached  at the counterweight end of the cantilever is used to haul the net from the sea akin to a sea-saw.To lower the net back into the sea the winch is released and two fishermen standing on the fishing net end of the lever help in gradual lowering of the net into the sea.The net is kept dipped in the sea for approximately  5 minutes before again being hauled by the cantilever balance.This procedure is repeated continuously.
Ship berthed at "Willingdon Island pier".
                                                                                                                     I witnessed 2 net dips of 5 minutes each in which 3 mullets and a crab were caught in the first haul while no fish was caught in the second  haul. Kochi and Kollam in Kerala have Chinese fishing net installations. The cost of a complete Chinese fishing net is approximately Rs 7 Lakhs(2016) requiring constant parts replacement overhauls and a working crew of 5 to 6 fishermen.Fresh fish caught from these nets are sold to tourists to be cooked  at a shack next to the shore on Vasco Da Gama Square. These nets were initially thought to have been introduced into India by the Chinese  explorer Zheng He and hence the name "Chinese Fishing nets"..Recent study proves that Portuguese Casado settlers from Macau introduced this method of fishing in India.
Beautiful "Ernakulam Marine Drive" seen from ferry.

                                  The  fishermen operating the nets expect some tips from tourists and i gave them Rs 50 having been thoroughly educated and satisfied at  understanding this unique method of fishing in India.From the Chinese Fishing nets strolled around the scenic Old world Fort Kochi entering "Princess Street" that had tourist hotels and heritage houses. Entered "Fort Bridge view hotel",a heritage  Dutch bungalow  hotel and booked a advance  ticket costing Rs 300  for a "Kathakali dance performance"  the next day at the "Kerala Kathakali Centre" situated near Santa Cruz Basilica of Fort Kochi. Walked along Princess Street which had a few antique shops besides home-stays and restaurants bringing back memories of Malacca in Malaysia and  Fort Galle. in Sri Lanka.
On the Ferry back to Ernakulam from Fort Kochi.
                                                                                                           A typical tourist street with vintage bungalows and small buildings of the Colonial era.Beautiful Portuguese, Dutch and English era bungalows  along the  street  facing the beach in Fort Kochi. Most of these bungalows have been converted to home-stays or hotels and one such boutique hotel was the unique historical  3-storey "Koder House" bungalow with its red colour  brick like facade belonging to the Jewish Koder family. It was  built in 1808 by Samuel.S.Koder of the Cochin Electric company. and till  recently occupied by Mr Satu.Koder regarded  as the patriarch of Cochin's ancient Jewish families. "Koder House" had hosted  Presidents, Prime ministers,,Viceroys,Ambassadors,Nobel Laureates,Hollywood directors and other prominent dignitaries during its occupancy by the Koder family.Walked the distance back to the Ferry jetty and purchased  the usual Rs 4 ticket and boarded the ferry back to Ernakulam. On arrival at Ernakulam jetty  took the main road route along Marine drive to my lodge. It was a long leisurely walk with heavy evening traffic  on both sides of the road and tall skyscraper buildings along the Marine drive promenade. On reaching the landmark Federal Bank building crossed the road and headed into congested Market road vegetable market and later Basin road.Arrived at my lodge at 2000 hrs and after a bathe just relaxed on my bed. A very hectic day had come to an end and my legs were feeling the strain of endless walks.Lodge owner Mr Raphael.Anthony had given me a Kerala tourist guide book  and some local  tourist literature which i studied before sleeping  the night away.
Former location of  "Vasco Da Gama Tomb" in St Francis Church in Fort Kochi.

Wednesday(9-3-2016) Ernakulam Kochi. :- Woke up early as usual, much before daybreak.The Muezzin's call for prayers was the official wake-up time."St Anthony Lodger" is situated alongside the now dirty canal  caled |Basin Road" in the heart of the ancient Ernakulam  market of Cochin now Kochi.
Rare canoe in abandoned "BASIN CANAL".

                  Upto as recently as the 1990's Country Boats laden with market goods would travel from the sea into lake Vembunad and through this canal into the main Ernakulam market.With the introduction of motor transport and railways and the building of bridges the Canal mode of boat  transport  became redundant to Cochin market  and was now history. The Basin  canal was now  a dirty waterway akin to a large gutter.Just across the narrow Basin  canal visible from my lodge room  was the wholesale banana and fish markets.Trucks loaded with bananas could be seen parked alongside the Canal road.Checked the local FM stations for music and to my surprise none of the stations broadcast English music, surprising for a tourist city. All the channels were in Malayalam with Malayalam film music and sometimes a few Hindi film music.Plugged in my earphones as the Malayalam music tunes were excellent and to a music lover its tunes that matter irrespective of  the language lyrics.At approximately 0630 hrs ventured out from the lodge into the banana market just on the opposite side of the canal.
Tons of " NENDRAN BANANAS"in Ernakulam market.

                                            It was awesome observing the auction and weighing of bunches of green Nendran  bananas ,a raw product for the World famous "Banana Chips" cuisine of Kerala.Further ahead was the wholesale fish-market where a variety of different types of fish was being auctioned.This was a stinking dirty area as a huge garbage dump with uncleared garbage was  piled in a heap next to the wholesale banana and fish market. Early morning  local  breakfast was a cup of tea along with local bhajia's costing just Rs 20 at the local stall in the fish market.I was surprised at the cost of fruits in the wholesale markets with pineapples and elaichi bananas sold for a pittance in comparison to its cost in city's like Mumbai or Bangalore.
Ernakulam:-Whole sale fish market and "Garbage dump 
                                                                                                 After my early morning tea returned back to the lodge where i had another cup of tea offered by the lodge.After a quick bathe dressed up for the days tour exploration with my agenda being Mattancherry  and Fort Kochi across the Vembunad lake.Left the lodge at 0730 hrs  and made my way to the main Mariine Drive road.Came across a overturned motorcycle overloaded with goods akin to a floored building.Luckily  the rider was not hurt and was helped in getting his motorcycle upright.Most vehicle accidents are caused due to drunk driving or overloading of vehicles and this motorcycle was a classic case-study of "Overload".From the main Marine Drive road walked on to the lakeside causeway, a now familiar route to the main boat ferry terminal of Ernakulam.
Landmark "Dufferin Point" on Willingdon Island.

                                                                                                                                                   At approximately 0800 hrs reached the ferry terminal where passengers had queued for purchasing the ferry tickets.At 0815 hrs boarded the ferry to Fort Kochi , a scenic early morning ferry ride  through the still waters parallel to  berthed ships on Willingdon Island.During the day got a better view of the buildings on Willingdon island of which the most prominent was "Dufferin Point" building named after India's first training ship for navigating and Engine officers.A passenger ship was berthed on Willingdon Island which in 2010 also berthed the gigantic Cunard liner "Queen Mary-2".
"BAZAAR STREET" of Mattancherry.
                                                                                                                          Finally  reached   Fort Kochi Jetty at 0840 hrs.On alighting from the ferry  began my "Solo Exploration" walking tour walking  towards the opposite side of Fort Kochi  road with my destination being historic  Mattancherry..Just a short walk from the boat jetty came across  a large building that resembled a church from the exterior. Entered the heritage "Fragrant Nature " hotel , a 5-star hotel.This historic building originally  belonged to the "East India Company" and had the first clock tower in Fort Kochi. A historic heritage hotel whose rental  prices ranging from Rs 6800 to Rs 15,000/day  before taxes  were also beyond the ordinary millionaire tourist.
Heritage "WATERFRONT GRANARY HOTEL"

                                                  It was a one way walk along the narrow Bazaar road of Mattancherry which formerly housed go-downs of spices and various herbs and now numerous provisional stores.I was early and most of the provision stores were closed but the smell of spices were strong akin to Ernakulam's busy  Jew street market.Came across the "Xandari Harbour" hotel located  on Bazaar road  situated in a ancient  spice building.Entered the hotel which had a beautiful swimming pool facing the backwaters of the Arabian sea  . The entire exterior structure of this ancient colonial spice trading building and its interior walls with aging cracks and falling plaster   was preserved while the interior of the hotel had modern decor and facilities.
Spices,Dry fruits & Herbs Warehouse on Bazaar Street.
                                                                                                                                                    Blending of Old World architecture with New World interior design.Chic and aesthetic.Rental prices per day were in the Rs 6500/day range, a backpackers fantasy stay  !While walking  further along Bazaar street came across the "Holy Cross Church" which had a large cross  with a open air chapel next to the main road.My  Adidas left leg sneaker shoe sole came apart and luckily there was a general provision store just next to the "Holy Cross Chapel".Purchased two "Feviquick" tubes and patched up my shoe sole. My  all-rounder "Marine Engineering" profession  experience saved  the day.There was not a cobbler in sight  and it would have been catastrophic walking with a open shoe sole.
"WOODS OF SUICIDES" exhibition
                                                                                                                                Entire Bazaar street road of Mattancherry  had ancient buildings with tiled roofs and also some of  the costliest boutique hotels in Kochi. Further along Bazaar road came across the "Waterfront Granary Hotel" situated inside a Colonial era granary built in  1877..This hotel had not yet opened to the public and on visiting the interior of the hotel was transported into a museum hotel.A vintage Mercedes car along with, a grand piano, a gramophone, a typewriter  and other  antiquities were on display on the main ground floor reception hall.A hotel museum.Further ahead from the reception museum in the open air on the backside of the hotel  was the indoor  swimming pool  with  a "James Bond" style boat tethered to the wharf of the pool.
"Our Lady of Life's Church" in Mattancherry.
                                                                                                                                                        A classic view of the Arabian sea and Willingdon Island from this pool with the private boat at the beck and call of the hotel residents.The hotel management invited me for the opening ceremony of this hotel and a stay . The  rentals of this hotel were Rs 10,000/Day and Rs 12,000/Day  after taxes and definitely  billionaire tourist  class and not middle-class backpacker tourist .  But then i never ever lived on credit like my music idol  late Michael.Jackson,and besides i spend minimum on hotel  lodging  during all my my tours. Thanked the staff for showing me this classic chic boutique designer hotel straight out of a movie set  for a  "007 James Bond Film" franchisee  or a  Hindi  "Race " film  franchisee. Walking further along Bazaar road came across  the largest antique shop in Fort Koch-Mattancherry.
Entrance"MATTANCHERRY PALACE(Dutch Museum)

                  .The "New Castle Gallery" was situated in a old building built in 1865  that was later extended in floors and   finally having 30,000 Sq Ft  of space housing various artifacts, curio's and antiques from all parts of Kerala and also the World.This antique shop that looked ordinary from the exterior was the largest in Kerala and the Kashmiri salesman explained me the various local wooden handicrafts, mostly  exotic mansion doors that had been purchased from private aristocratic houses in Kerala ..They also specialized in Kashmiri carpets and various curio's and art-works.Further ahead along  Bazaar road  came across a original Spice and dry fruits warehouse.Entered the warehouse which had a general spice/dry fruits shop at its entrance.

Mattancherry Jew Town

                            The small of spices was just intoxicating and for centuries these type of warehouses must have been over entire Bazaar road.Explored deep inside the massive warehouse estate that touched the sea coast akin to the plush "Waterfront Granary hotel"  that was once a warehouse.A pack of common cats were busy having their morning breakfast in the corner of this huge ware-house, a necessity to control the rodent population of this huge spice/dryfruits warehouse.Sacks of spices, medicinal herbs were stored in Gunny sacks and kept in the open air inside this warehouse.Never before in my life had i seen sacks of condiments and medicinal herbs kept in such vast quantities in  one single location.
Exploring  Colonial Mattancherry.

                                                                                      At last i got to view a authentic Cochin spice trade warehouse in Mattancherry.From the Spice warehouse just a few meters away came across the "BC Gallery" situated  on the first floor of  defunct  warehouse bizarrely advertising  a solo exhibition by Mr K.P.Pradeepkumar titled "Wood of suicides".The title was haunting and decided to visit the exhibition . .Walked to the first floor of this ancient building and came across paintings in a hall  inspired from the "Divine Comedy" by Dante.Alghieri, the 14th century Italian poet..The exhibition was on view from 20th February to 20th March 2016 and hence  was fortunate to also visit a art gallery in Mattancherry. Further ahead was "Our Lady of Life's Church". From the  church complex it was a short walk to the main Mattancherry bus terminus  junction where Bazaar street came to an end .
Entrance to "Tourist Police Museum"
                                                                                        The "Mattancherry Police Station" was a prominent building in the vicinity as also a large hospital.Further ahead at the start of "Jew Street " was  the "Mattancherry Palace(Dutch Palace)while the adjacent street was the main bus route from Mattancherry to Ernakulam .Numerous tourist buses were parked in the parking lot of the  street while the local buses had their own parking depot.Visited the historic "Mattancherry Palace(Dutch Palace)" the entrance  ticket costing  Rs 5 but a ban on photography inside the museum.This palace was built by the Portuguese in 1555 AD and presented to Veera Kerala Verma(1537-1565) the Raja of  KochiThe  Palace is Quadrangular in structure built along traditional Kerala architectural style with a courtyard in the centre.
"PARADESI SYNAGOGUE" in Jew Town
                                                                                                      The Courtyard has a small temple dedicated Pazhayannur Bhagavati, the protective Goddess of the Royal family of Kochi.There are two other small temples on either side of the Palace with one temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and the other to Lord Siva.Inside the museum are exhibit portraits of the Rajas of Kochi and Kerala murals depicting Hindu temple art.After visiting the museum  which had a large tourist crowd walked along 'Jew  Town" which is not to be confused with "Jew Street" of Ernakulam market on the mainland.Typical modern tourist street with  colonial buildings  and heritage shops selling antiques.Having recently visited Eastern Europe in September-2015 , had toured the historic memorials and towns  of European Jews during World War-2 including the unbelievable holocaust museums of Auschwitz and Birkeneau in Poland. Indian Jews never ever suffered any persecution in India unlike the European Jews  but  emigrated in mass numbers in the 1950's after the creation of the Country of Israel.In 2013 only  32 members of the Jewish community lived in Kochi  mostly in Jew town in Mattancherry with Paradesi synagogue being the only functional synagogue in the city.
Fort Kochi Seaside Beach.

                                                            Cochin now Kochi seems to have had the maximum number of Indian Jews in India before the creation of Israel as indicated by the colonial houses,synagogues and street names.Walked towards the "Jewish Cemetery" and on the way came across the "National  Tourism Police Station & Police museum", a Police museum.As a fan of "Sherlock Holmes' and "Hercule Poirot" it was detective novels that fascinated me and here i was in a "Police Museum".Entry ticket to the museum was free and a Inspector was in charge of the small museum that resembled a police station.A brief pictorial history of the Kerala State police uniform and pistols and weapons during different era's was on display.
St Francis Church(Fort Kochi)

                                                   It was the "FINGERPRINTS" section that educated me on the most common fool proof  method of crime detection even in the modern era of "DNA test".Excellent photographs with explanations about fingerprints was on display.Had a discussion on fingerprints with the young inspector Mr Asokan A..N and really understood the method of fingerprinting and also the errors involved in fingerprinting criminals or suspects.Inspector Asokan had done a short stint as a trainee navigator in the Kerala port trust before finally entering the police force.Thanking Inspector Asokan  continued my exploratory solo walking tour of Mattancherry reaching the Jewish cemetery that was locked.Got a view  of the cemetery  from the outside and at 1130 hrs  made my way to Jew Town  towards the historic "Paradesi Synagogue".This synagogue  was built in 1567 by the "White Jews" who had migrated from Portugal and  Spain in the 15th and 16th Century  to  the Kingdom of Cochin.It is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations and the only functional synagogue in 2016 in Kochi.The Synagogue has four buildings and is built adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace sharing the boundary wall.
Interior of "St Francis Church" undergoing repairs.

                                                       The Malabari Jews(Black Jews) controlled the World spice trade and were prosperous trading community of Kerala.Surprised to know that the "CASTE SYSTEM" also existed and exists among the Indian Jews of Paradesi Synagogue .The "Black Jews(Malabari Jews)" were the original Cochin Jew settlers who were considered inferior to the white coloured Paradesi Jews and hence although allowed to worship in the same synagogue were not given membership.Third class of  Kochi Jews were the Meshuchrarim, a group of  ancestors of freed slave Jews that had no communal rights and no Synagogue of their own.
Colonial Dutch "DAVID HALL(1695) Bungalow.
                                                                                                                  Until the first half of the 20th century they sat on the steps of the Paradesi synagogue !With the mass exodus of the Jewish community to Israel from India and the gradual closure of Kochi's synagogues due to lack of congregation the remaining  Jews resolved their caste differences and now the minuscule few in Jew Town pray in the one and only synagogue in Kochi, the Paradesi synagogue.In 1968  the 400th anniversary of the Paradesi synagogue was attended by then Indian Prime Minister Smt Indira.Gandhi.On reaching Paradesi Synagogue was surprised at the simple looking edifice as are most synagogues from the exterior including those in Europe.Unlike Churches ,
Entrance to Colonial Mansion  "THAKUR HOUSE"

                                                                                                        Mosques or Temples synagogues are less decorative from the exterior. Had to remove my shoes before entering the synagogue and was also charged a entrance fee. Youngest female heir to the "White Jew" line of Paradesi synagogue MsYaheh.Hallegua was seated at the entrance door issuing tickets,, a typical European Jew in appearance..Seeing her was akin to meeting Royalty and brought back memories of meeting princess Prerana.Rajya.Laxmi.Devi.Singh, in Kathmandu in 2011.She is the daughter of  King  Gyanendra .Shah , the last king of Nepal.Spoke to her and she seemed shy and hesitant, speaking a foreign language to the ticket issuer sitting next to her..Entered  the small Synagogue  which  had a majority of Caucasian tourists.
Colonial "DUTCH CEMETERY(1724)

                                                                        Photography was prohibited and the interior had lots of chandlers , a prominent feature inside Synagoggues. After a brief look around the interior of the Synagogue made my exit towards Jew Town.Headed towards the bus- depot and at approximately 1200 hrs  boarded  the wrong bus heading to Ernakulan and not Fort Kochi.Got down mid-way and shared a auto-rickshaw with a young traveller to Fort Kochi costing Rs 25/person.It was a short drive to the landmark historical "Parade Ground" used during the Portuguese, Dutch and British era for military drills, parades and today a sports recreation ground.The St Francis Church is situated on one end of the ground on Church Road. Entered the historic Church  and saw a guide explaining the church history to a large group of  tourists  belonging to "Kesari Tour Group" from Mumbai.
Colonial era  Fort Kochi with plush Bungalows.

                                                                       St Francis Church  was originally a Roman Catholic church  during the Portuguese period from 1503 to 1663..During Dutch rule it was converted to Dutch reform church between 1664 to 1804. Finally during the British era the Church became  Anglican from 1804 to 1947. After Independence of India  the Church remained Protestant and is today governed by the Church of South India.Portuguese Vasco Da Gama explorer  and first European to discover India  by the sea route died in Cochin in 1524 and was buried in this church.His remains were later exhumed and transferred to Portugal 14 years after his death.The interior of the Church was under repairs and renovation.Took a few photo's inside the church of the  tombstone of Vasco Da Gama as also a Dutch tombstone. Christ Church School in Mumbai, my alma mater is  a Protestant school and has one of the oldest Anglican churches in Mumbai.
"LOAFERS CORNER" at Princess Street.

                                  There is a difference between the interior decor of a Protestant church and a Catholic church and strangely St Francis Church had a mix of  Catholic and Protestant interior design.Groups of tourists continuously entered the Church At approximately 1245 made my exit from the church and walked down Church road to "David Hall" historic Dutch Bungalow.This Bungalow was built sometime in  1695 by the "Dutch East India Company" and is associated with renowned Dutch naturalist Hendrik. Adriaan Van Reed tot Drakestein who compiled  the botanical life along the Malabar coast.Today this bungalow has been converted into a art gallery and restaurant.Entered this historic bungalow and viewed the art exhibits also reading the local newspaper in the hotel lounge.
Lunch at "Elite hotel" on Princess street.

                                                                                     It got its present name "David Hall" from  its later resident Mr David.Koder a prominent Jewish  businessman of the Old Jewish community whose "Koder House" is another landmark bungalow in Fort Kochi. From David Hall bungalow walked  towards Fort Kochi beach which was devoid of any bathers barring a few fisher-folk. It  was 1300 hrs in the afternoon with the peak Kochi Sun and sultry humid weather making the heat intense.My next agenda was to visit the "Dutch Cemetery" as cemeteries fascinate me for their solitude and as in the case of populated  concrete jungle Mumbai, a mini garden in the house of the dead.Walking towards the Dutch Cemetery came across the entrance gate to the palatial mansion called "Thakur House".This colonial palatial mansion is the residence of  the tea trading firm of "Ram Bahadur Thakur & Company".
Colonial "Old Harbour House(1808)"

                                                                        Just further ahead from Thakur house around the corner was the historic "Dutch Cemetery" that was locked  and hence just got a external view akin to the Jewish cemetery in Mattancherry. From the Dutch cemetery retraced my route backwards  towards Parade Palace street ,Ridsdale road and Bastion street  and spotted  some film shooting in front of a palatial bungalow. Seems it was the ancestral  bungalow of noted  Carnatic musician  and   Hindi playback singer Shri K.J.Yesudas which was sold to builder  Mr Nassar in 2000 and later  converted to a  hotel   named "The House of Yesudas" .A mango tree planted by the singer's mother  was not cut down by its new owner Mr Nassar  and Singer K.J.Yesudes visits the hotel every March and waters this mango tree, a heritage tree.Rentals of the single floor  bungalow hotel was 4/5-star rates  with  the minimum being at Rs 8500/Day .Having done a survey of the 4/5 Star boutique hotels in Mattancherry and Fort Kochi  i suspected that there was a glut of expensive tourist resorts besides common normal homestays and lodges.Hotel business was definitely competitive in Ernakulam and Kochi with the customer being the King.The Kerala tourism office was in near proximity and entered the same and collected some tour brochures and guides of Fort Kochi. Kochi receives the maximum tourists in Kerala and the local tourism board was advertising as well as selling tourism at a world class level on par with any popular tourism destination in the World.
Colonial "DELTA STUDY(1808) converted intio a school.

                                                                                                                    From the tourism office .reached  the infamous  historic "Loafers Corner". "Loafers Corner" was named  as it was the meeting rendezvous of  wannabe colonial Romeo's and Juliet's as well as normal dating couples.Beautiful small Colonial European style houses line this Princess Street at which corner lies "Loafers Corner". It was 1345 hrs and akin to a solo loafer i was wandering aimlessly finally deciding to have my lunch at "Elite, hotel, restaurant and bakery" on Princess street. This was a Old World Colonial restaurant with tiled roofs and a few tourists having their snacks or lunch.Lunch was a modest chicken pattice and two cutlets along with tea, Modest prices for eating in a heritage colonial Bungalow restaurant.
"VASCO HOUSE" ,one of oldest Bungalows in Fort Kochi.

                                                                              Met a young Croatian lady tourist Jamila and struck a conversation with her.During my tours i always  envy young backpackers and tourists from First World country's who literally travel the World at a young age without much hassles of "Tourist Visa's" or jobs as they rejoin their companies or get a new job on completion of a minimum 3 to 6 months tour.We Indians face lots of red-tapism and protocol while seeking Visa's to visit most country's of the World. She was into acting and script-writing and on her way to Pondicherry(Puducherry) for a acting course in that city..After lunch walked down "Rose Road", all inter-connected cute colonial streets within Fort Kochi vicinity . Reached "River Road" having the famous Chinese fishing nets and came across "Pierce Leslie Bungalow(Tower House)" situated at the beginning of "Tower Road".
"BISHOP'S  HOUSE"(Indo Portuguese Museum).

    "Pierce Leslie & Co", a trading house of Coffee merchants was founded in 1862 and the Bungalow  architecture design depicts Portuguese,Dutch and local influences. Next to ""Tower House"  on tower road is "Old Harbour House" built in 1808 and once  a boat club.This bungalow is presently owned by a vintage tea broking firm ""Carrit Moran & Co" and is a private residence.Next to Old Harbour house was "Koder House" which i have detailed during my first days visit to Fort Kochi. A strikingly historic red coloured Bungalow house  now a heritage hotel.The last historic edifice on Tower road was the  "Delta Study" built in 1808.It is today a school and the courtyard once used as a warehouse is a playground.Saw a lot of school children in the courtyard of this historic colonial edifice.
"Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica".

                                                                                                     Architects and town planners can use "Delta Study" as a model for adapting old colonial buildings to modern 21st century living without demolishing the original edifice.Seems "TOWER  ROAD" of Fort Kochi was a living open- air museum of Colonial Portuguese-Dutch-British and local architecture and culture.I had suddenly realized that i had  missed out on seeing the supposed residence of Vasco Da Gama in Cochin and after much queries and walking along the jig-saw roads of Fort Kochi finally arrived at "Vasco House" situated at the end of "Rose Street".A ordinary looking large Bungalow house and is considered one of the oldest residences in Fort Kochi built sometime in the 16 th Century.
Pulpit and altar of historic "Santa Cruz Basilica".
                                                                                                                                                Whether Vasco Da Gama genuinely lived in this house is a matter of folklore and debate with no authentic proof but just that it is one of the oldest houses in Fort Kochi vicinity.A tour company "Vasco tours and travels"  and a few other non-descript shops were  situated on the ground floor of this historic bungalow.I presumed it would be converted to some sort of museum. Vasco Da Gama  if alive would have been amazed to see the transformation of his residence ! From Vasco home walked the long walk down Ridsdale road  passing "VOC GATE"  which once housed the offices of the mighty "Dutch East India Company" for almost 150 years .Finally reached  "Bishop's House" situated on Pattalam road.."Bishop House: was originally built in 1506 as the residence of the Portuguese governor on the site of the  Groningen Bastion of the Old Dutch Fort.
Ancestral house of singer  K.J.Yesudas now a hotel.

                                                                                                             The Dutch re-occupied it and after the British conquest of Cochin in 1795  it was possessed by the Vernedes family from whom it was acquired by  Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of the Diocese of Cochin whose jurisdiction was  Southern and Eastern India , Burma, Malaya and Ceylon.Any Globe trotter  tourist visiting Fort Kochi would find striking similarities in colonial housing and layout  between Fort Kochi, Fort Galle in Sri Lanka(Ceylon) and Melaka(Malacca) in Malaysia.The Bishop house complex was huge and well gardened, absolutely desolate. made my way to the reception situated in the original building housing the bishop's residence  and on inquiry was told to visit the  "Indo-Portuguese Museum" situated in the same compound. A young Spanish Caucasian couple joined me  to the visit to this  Catholic clergy museum.
Colonial "Pierce Leslie Bungalow(Tower House)"

                                                              We were the only three tourists and were explained the layout of the museum by the museum curator/ticket issuer. Admission to the museum was Rs 10/Person.The museum was a creation of  Dr Joseph.Kurathra,Bishop of Kochi in order to preserve  some of the historical Church relics for posterity.The museum is divided into 5 sections according to the religious artifacts and relics displayed.The 5 sections are 1) Altar 2) Treasure 3) Procession 4) Civil Life and 5) Cathedral.Most of the collections are from the Churches in the Diocese.The Church of our Lady of Hope in Vypeen and  Santa Cruz Cathedral in Fort Kochi  provided the museum with some priceless Church artifacts.of the Portuguese era.At the basement of the museum building was the excavated ruins of the Old Dutch fort that was discovered while building the museum.At approximately 1515 hrs finished the tour of the museum and the effect of the heat was taking its toll on me.
"SANTA CRUZ BASILICA"


                                                                                              Walked back along Ridsdale  lane entering K.B.Jacob road and reached  my last sightseeing spot of the day, "Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica". The Santa Cruz Basilica of Fort Kochi is one of the eight Basilica's in India.This Church was built by the Portuguese and founded on 3rd May 1505.Pope Paul IV elevated the church to a Cathedral in 1558.The Dutch  later conquered Cochin in 1663  and destroyed all Catholic churches except the Santa Cruz Cathedral and the St Francis Church.The Dutch converted the Cathedral to a arms storehouse ! Later the British conquered  Cochin in 1795 from the Dutch and demolished the Santa Cruz Cathedral.For a further 100 years the church site was empty  and in 1887 Bishop Dom Gomez Vereira commissioned the building of the new church.
Altar and Pulpit of Santa Cruz Basilica.

                                      The present Santa Cruz Church building was consecrated in  1905 and was  proclaimed a Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.The Church has two lofty spires with a bright white washed exterior.Entered the interior of the Church that was empty and quiet except for the Church care-taker.The interior was mostly Gothic with paintings on the ceiling depicting the Via Crucis of Christ.The main Altar of the Church was decorated by the famous Italian painter Fr Antonio.Moscheni SJ and his disciple De Gama of Mangalore..Fr Antonio.Moscheni is best known for his frescoes  in the chapel of St Aloysius College at Mangalore which i had visited in 1983 during my port stay in Mangalore Port. Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica  is a  beautiful Church with religious  frescoes, murals and stained glass as seen in Churches in Europe.At approximately 1545 hrs came out of Santa Cruz Church Basilica and  walked a little further along  K.B.Jacob road coming across a shop selling the thirst quenching Soda/lime juice cold drink, my survival drink throughout my stay in Kochi.At a price of Rs 15 this cold drink is a saviour in the intense humid heat of Kochi. a Internet cafe was next to the refreshment store and spent the next half hour browsing the internet as well as had some rest on the chair.  
"TATTOO ART" Bungalow in  Fort Kochi,

                                                      At 1630 hrs made my way towards the "Kerala Kathakali Centre" building situated a short walking distance from Santa Cruz Church Basilica.The entrance to the building was through a narrow pathway and the "Kalarippayat show" was  in progress and hence being early  was told to come back at 1700 hrs.The Kerala  Kathakali centre was founded in 1990 and besides Kathakali dances  they also have "Kalarippayat" shows .This  is a unique form of Martial arts akin to Kungfu that is native to Kerala.Strolled in the vicinity and observed the beautiful bungalow buildings  and seems tattoo art was the rage with a catchy advertisement on tattoo art stating , quote, "Tattoo's are the only thing we take to the grave" !
Kerala Kathakali centre :- Make-up display of artists.

                                                  I have 3 tattoo's on my body which will accompany me to the grave. At exactly 1700 hrs came back to the reception  where a few Caucasian tourists were also in queue.Leaflets about the play's title and story  were given to every member of the audience according to the language of choice of the tourist. The kathakali play  was titled "Kichaka Vadham(The Killing of Kichaka)" based on the Mahabharata with  the basic plot and story of the play  explained in English language.This episode of the Mahabharata was also  South India's first silent film in 1918 titled "Keechaka Vadham(The Extermination of Keechaka)".Made my entry to the first floor of the Kathakali dance centre onto seat  Nos 10,in the front first row of the small auditorium. The crowd of mostly Caucasian tourists  gradually filled in and we were shown the traditional  method of facial make-up of the artists with the Kathakali performers doing their make-up on stage  in front of the audience.
Hindu religious rituals before Kathakali performance.

                                                                                                                           A diva(wick lamp) was lit next to the artists doing their make-up.The local auditorium cat walked all over the place to the amusement of the audience.It was the first time in my life that i was attending a Kathakali dance performance and the artists with their exotic make-up and discipline fascinated me.Some religious Hindu rituals were performed before the start of the play.After the make-up  and before the start of the play the artist acting as "Bheema" came on stage and made various facial,body  and eye expressions to the beating of the drums.The main narrator of the play explained us the meaning of the actors body and facial expressions in Kathakali  dance recitals.It is  only through facial and body expressions and the classical singing of the narrator  that the audience understands the play.
Kathakali play :- "KICHAKA VADHAM" in progress.

                                                                                                             The Main play finally began at approximately  1815 hrs.The narrator played the  harmonium and the cymbals while narrating the play.A piece of cloth akin to a curtain was used to depict a change in scene. In Kathakali males play the female role  and the character of Draupadi was played by a male Kathakali actor. The villain of the play Kichaka was evil and lust personified in trying to seduce Draupadi.In the last scene Kichika is lured by Draupadi to his untimely death in the hands of the Pandav Bheema. I didn't feel bored although not understanding the facial/eye  languages of the actors nor the narrators classical recital..Something different to me brought up on a diet of Western English and Hindi film music.The Kathakali concert finally got over at 1935 hrs and i quickly made my way to the exit. Boarded a auto-rickshaw costing Rs 40 and alighted at the Fort Kochi ferry terminal.Was afraid of missing the last launch little realizing that 2130 hrs was the departure of the last launch from Fort Kochi ferry pier.Boarded the ferry and was in Ernakulam jetty by 2015 hrs.Walked the now familiar distance towards St Anthonys lodge.On entering Broadway/ Market road came across a Malabari restaurant "Salalah Food Court" serving various non-vegetarian dishes. Dinner was " Roast beef(Buffalo meat)" with Kerala Paratha, excellent and cheap costing just Rs 90.On tours i taste all types of Cuisine from street food to exotic restaurants within my tour budget.After dinner walked through crowded Market road into Basin road and into my room in the lodge. A excellent hectic day of sightseeing, adventure and discovery had come to a end.
Passenger boat cruise on backwaters of Kerala  from Alappuzha to Kanjiram (Venice of the East)

Thursday(10-3-2016) Ernakulam, Kochi :-  Woke up early as usual and at the break of dawn walked out of the lodge to main Marine Drive road.
ALAPPUZHA:- Venice of the East.

                                                                                   Thanks to lodge owner Mr Raphael.Anthony that i was provided with a detailed account of travelling to Alappuzha(Alleppey).It was difficult getting a auto-rickshaw early in the morning and had to walk upto the marine drive bus-stop before managing to hire a auto to the main Ernakulam  "KSRTC bus depot"..At approximately 0630 hrs reached the depot with the auto fare amounting to Rs 40.Boarded a empty bus, the ticket costing Rs 52 for the approximately  62 kms journey to Alappuzha.. This was the starting point and hence got a excellent seat on the bus.
"Fish Curry/Aapams" for breakfast in Alappuzha.

                                                           The journey to Alappuzha began at approximately 0645 hrs and it was a pleasure travelling through the narrow city roads of Ernakulam early in the morning sans the normal heavy traffic.A pleasant journey through the Countryside and as our bus approached the outskirts of Alappuzha got a view of the backwater canals of this city also called the Venice of the East by Lord Curzon. Finally reached Alappuzha bus depot  at approximately 0800 hrs with a broad canal along with boat traffic passing parallel to the bus depot. Land and water transport in the city..Alighting from the bus inquired  about the public and private  transport to Marari beach.
Classic MARARI beach.

                                                                                                                                  Was shocked when the local auto-rickshaws quoted a minimum price of Rs 300 for a one-way journey of approximately 11 kms  to this secluded beach.As a hard-core budget backpacker realized i was being conned as there should be some cheap public transport to this popular beach described in all travel blogs and magazines on Kerala.Every public and popular tourist destination in any part of the World has a cheap public transport for the average tourist or local .Walked into "Hotel Yuvraj" situated on the main road opposite the public boat  water canal and was surprised that fish was on the breakfast menu.Brought back memories of my travel to Penang in Malaysia.Breakfast at 0815 hrs was fish curry with a  "appams" and tea costing Rs 106.,
Fisherman on Marari beach.
                                                                                                                                       Excellent and fresh food.Inquired with the hotel steward about public transport to Marari beach and he guided me on the right backpacker budget  path.After a breakfast equivalent  to a lunch i thanked the steward and headed back to the bus depot.Boarded the local bus to Chertala the ticket costing Rs 18.As a confused traveller in a new locale i told the conductor to let me know the right stop to alight the bus.At approximately 0900 hrs reached Mararikulam village where i alighted the bus and approached a auto-rickshaw.Was surprised at being quoted a price of Rs 90 for the distance to the beach but having no choice hired the auto.The State of Kerala has a very strong "Union System" with "Red-Tapism"  that sets prices and local trade laws. Hence auto-rickshaw hire charges are fixed with no under-cutting among fellow rickshaw drivers/owners or bargaining by customers.
A sea-dip on classic Marari beach.

                                                                           Its a well told joke that in India  the average Keralite Industrialist and entrepreneur find economic and professional success away from their  home state rather than in their home state.Strong trade Unionism is one reason for the lack of  local entrepreneurs barring the  excellent maintained tourism Industry which is the main industry of Kerala.At approximately 0915 hrs was at Marari beach and was surprised by its exclusivity. This pure white sand beach which stretches for kilometers was recognized as the best  "Hammock beach" by National Geographic.There are no changing rooms on the beach or beach-side restaurants as in Goa and hence just unchanged into my swim-wear and hung my clothes on a inverted dinghy.
MARARI:- One of World's best "HAMMOCK BEACH".

                        I was one of the earliest arrivals on this isolated beach early in the morning and was one of the first swimmers in the sea on this day.A few Caucasian tourists were in the sea and a lone fisherman was casting his net into the sea. He caught a single tiny cat-fish which he discarded on the beach and i later released back into the sea.Although a non-vegetarian and a former air-gun bird hunter in my youth  i never ever waste non-vegetarian food and totally against wanton killing or harvesting of  livestock and fish products.A few young Honeymooning Indian couples were busy posing for photographs along the beach. This beach has high powerful waves  and swimming is difficult and dangerous.
"Bishop's House" on Alappuzha beach.
                                                                                                                       A swimmer could just walk into shoulder deep water and play the waves or swim with the waves.The coconut palms stretch along the entire beach for kilometers into the horizon, just beautiful.The neighbouring  fisherman village of Mararikulam  gave this beach its name Marari. Kerala is World famous for its Ayurveda boutique  spa's and the same was advertised on Marari beach.At approximately 1115 hrs decided to call it a day at Marari beach and was waiting for a rickshaw near a shop at the rickshaw stand.With no rickshaws for hire hitchhiked onto  a goods rickshaw to the main beach road and to my astonishment was surprised to  learn that a local bus service from Marari beach to Alappuzha very much existed!
ALAPPUZHA BEACH :- Dangerous for Swimming.

   Future tourists and backpackers on a budget would benefit from this discovery.Had  tea at a restaurant near the road  and  at 1130 hrs boarded the local bus to Alappuzha, the ticket costing just Rs 16..The bus took a different route than the one i arrived on from Ernakulam. As the bus wound its way through some backwater canal roads  and later came onto the main road  my travelling eyesight spotted a signboard at a main road bifurcation  junction.The big bold signboard  indicated   Alappuzha beach in one direction and Alappuzha  boat station in  the opposite direction.Quickly alighted the bus at the junction and decided to walk to Alappuzha beach.It was a lonely endless walk along a main waterway canal towards the beach with my legs feeling the strain and the beach front nowhere in sight.
Alapupuzha Lighthouse (1862)

                                                                    Crossed a small canal bridge at the end of the long straight road and  finally at approximately 1230 hrs reached Alappuzha beach. A prominent landmark was "St Xavier Chapel" with  the "Bishop's House" situated along the beach front.The beach was no comparison in beauty and cleanliness to Marari beach and in fact a certain portion of the beach was banned for swimming, being listed as dangerous.There was also a lifeguard on that section of the beach to prevent swimmers from entering the sea.The Alappuzha beach  hosts the annual new year festival and last year on  16th April 2015  held Kerala's first International sand festival on its beach. There were no swimmers on the beach and walked towards the Alappuzha lighthouse situated a bit inland from the beach.The Alappuzha(Alleppey) lighthouse was built in 1862. Alappuzha was ruled by the Raja's of Travancore before Independence in 1947 and was one of the busiest port and trade centre of Kerala.The lighthouse is 28( 92 Ft) meters in height and has a beam range of  24.4 nautical miles ( 45.4Kms).
Alappuzha   local passenger ferry terminus.

                                                                                                                             During my visit it was lunch hours and hence tourist entry to the top was closed.Next to the lighthouse was a large ground on which driving tests were conducted by the Kerala vehicle authorities as also a military wing for driving tests for military personnel.Wandered around the vicinity searching for a economic restaurant for lunch. Spotted a beautiful Bungalow building near the beach and entered the "Cassia beach restaurant". A beautiful large spacious restaurant with a "Tripadvisor" certificate and modest rates.Lunch at 1300 hrs was "Fish curry rice/Vegetables", excellent as i was also famished with hunger and strained legs.After a sumptuous lunch made my way out of this cozy bungalow restaurant and at 1345 hrs boarded a rickshaw to Alappuzha boat terminus
Local Ferry from Alappuzha to Kanjiram

                          It was a short auto ride costing Rs 60 that crossed  the railway tracks into Allappuzha boat Jetty.On Solo tours transport and hotel are major overpriced expenses compared to group travel unless using public transport or staying in budget hostels/ lodgings as do i.I was travelling "SOLO" and realized that a boat ride on the Vembunad backwaters of Alappuzha would cost a fortune and hence decided to take a normal passenger boat ride along with the local villagers. A private launch owner approached me for a ride costing Rs 500/boat or a minimum of 5 passengers if sharing the cost.I told him i was alone and would join any tour group or individuals in a hired boat.After a few minutes he told me that i could join a group of Caucasian tourists who had just arrived at the boat station.
Boats parked on opposite side of  public boat terminus.
                                                                                                                          I approached them and to my good fortune they  told me that they intended taking the 1430 hrs Alappuzha to Kottayam public boat service run by the "KSWTD(Kerala State Water Transport Department)" rather than the  private boat tour.Thanked them for the guidance although the private boatman was disappointed for not managing to lure us on his private boat ride.Observed the local boat traffic at the boat terminus akin to a normal bus terminus on land.The large public passenger boat was punctual on time and at 1430 hrs we boarded the boat alongside the wharf.The conductor arrived on the boat dressed in a normal  khaki coloured uniform as do all conductors and  the boat ticket was only Rs 15 and seating was comfortable.
Into the backwaters of Alappuzha from Boat Terminus.

                                                                                                                               Departure was punctual akin to a train  and initially it was a passage through the narrow city canal akin to driving on a two-way road.The Kerala backwaters are World famous and Alappuzha was nicknamed the "Venice of the East" by Lord Curzon.The Vembunad lake is the longest lake in Kerala and is called by different names in different parts of the state.The famous "Nehru Trophy" boat race" held on Punnamada lake (Vembunad)in Kuttanad   on the second Saturday of every August is in close proximity to Alappuzha. The backwaters are lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian sea which forms a canal network of  waterway transport almost 900 kms across the State.
"Kettuvallam(Boathouses) parked for tourists.

                               The Vembunad lake  network consists of 5 large lakes linked by man-made and natural canals  and fed by  38 monsoon rivers.There are a number of towns, villages and city's situated on these backwater routes that form the beginning or end of a backwater cruise.The backwaters have a unique system where fresh water from the rivers meets the sea water from the Arabian sea.and in some places like Neendakara in Kollam a barrage has been built akin to a dam to prevent ingress of sea(Salt) water into the fresh water system.This fresh water is used for irrigation of the acres of rice fields. Ashtamudi lake in Kollam covering a area of 200 Sq Km  and having a network of canals is the most visited tourist lake and also the most preserved lake in India.The 8 hours boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest cruise in Kerala backwaters.
Local village "BOAT STOP" on  backwaters.

                                              Our's  was a 2 hour common boat cruise at a unbelievable Rs 15.As we sailed further from the city into the broader parts of the waterways  sighted the first "Boathouses" called "Kettuvallams" in Malayalam.The Kettuvallams were traditionally used for transporting grain from the fields situated alongside the waterways and  were constructed of coconut leaf thatched roofs covering a 100ft(30M) length boat akin to our own large motorized passenger boat.Spotted numerous aquatic birds the most common being Cormorants, pond herons and egrets.Spotted the rare darter(Snake bird) and some ducks.There were numerous "Boat Stops" along the villages where akin to a bus the boat stopped for a minute to allow passengers to board and alight.As a former seafarer with 23 years of  regular onn/off sailing on  the seven seas on every type of ship/boats of my generation  i usually avoided boat trips as it bored me. Its akin to telling a professional jockey to take a joy ride on a pony !
Part of Scenic backwaters of Kerala.

                                                                  To my surprise i found the  Alappuzha backwater launch ride fascinating and just hoped it wouldn't end too soon .The scenery was beautiful although at times similar to my parents ancestral villages of Barkur and Mabukala in Karnataka.There is not much difference between the topography of coastal Karnataka and Kerala with rice and coconut plantations being the major cultivation.Difference was in the backwaters and the lakes with its navigable canals and villages.At times the lake resembled a sea in breadth and width. Boat traffic was active all round the large lake and waterways.Saw numerous  "Kettuvallams(Boathouses)" along the passage reminding me of sea voyages during river navigation where land is visible on either side of the large ocean sailing ship. .  
Plush Kettuvallam(Hoseboat) on the lake.
                                                                                                                  I Would have definitely got bored on a days voyage on a Kettuvallam and hence was lucky to get this ideal 2 hour passenger boat ride that offered all the views of a normal luxury Kettuvallam  minus the  exorbitant cost .Coconut trees  formed the lake boundaries with acres of rice fields akin to the American Prairies  visible during parts of the journey.This boat journey was initially upto Kottayam which is a total of 40 'Boat Stops" from Alappuzha but due to tremendous growth of weed barnacles on the lake the service  terminated at Kanjiram which is 7 Kms from Kottayam.The weed stretch of the lake towards the end of our boat journey  was akin to ploughing through a field of weed or sheet of ice. Came across villagers washing their clothes along the channel while young children played in the water.Typical village life can be observed during a backwater motorboat or house boat ride .
Local village transport on lake backwaters.

                                                                          After a few minutes from crossing this dense weed growth we reached our destination  Kanjiram boat station at  approximately 1615 hrs,, the last stop on this exotic common boat route.A beautiful experience of travelling on the backwaters of the Vembunad lake in Kerala, the longest fresh water lake in India.We alighted the boat at Kanjiram  with its return journey back to Alappuzha scheduled at a departure time of  1745 hrs from Kanjiram boat jetty.I was confused as i thought it would be a short boat ride of about a hour and not a almost 2 hours one way journey costing only Rs 15.Thanks to the Croatian tourists who had planned their boat tour that i made a decision to travel to Kottayam by bus and later board the bus back to Ernakulam from Kottayam.
Parts of backwaters to Kanjiram  polluted with weeds.
                                                                                                      Met a local English speaking professional  Mr Thompson.Thorma  who had travelled in the same boat with us and was on his way to Kumarakom. He guided us to the bus stop which was a short walk  from the village boat jetty. Weed had completely blocked the canal  way to Kottayam and the same was barricaded akin to a train barrier at the end of a railway platform..At approximately 16 40 hrs  we boarded a bus to Kottayam.and a local advised me to catch the "KSRTC" bus to Ernakulam rather than a private bus as the Croatians had planned.Alighted the bus in Kottayam city thanking the Croatian tourists for their guidance and boarded a auto costing the minimum fare of Rs 20  to the local "KSRTC" depot.Reached "KSRTC" depot at 1700 hrs and found difficulty in locating the bus to Ernakulam.
Acres of Rice fields akin to American Prairies.

  Met a young local student Mr Jijo who spoke with a American accent and earned a part-time income guiding tourists to hotels or locales.It was a long wait for the bus and finally at 1730 hrs boarded the bus to Ernakulam. It was the longest road journey of my entire tour with the  bus taking detours through a few towns on the normal  48 kms distance to Ernakulam. I finally reached  Ernakulam KSRTC depot at approximately 2015 hrs, a total unbelievable journey of 2 hrs 45 minutes by road.At Ernakulam bus depot caught a registered auto-rickshaw paying a token fee of Rs 1 to the auto union  akin to a airport taxi  and reached Market road at 2045 hrs with the auto bill amounting to Rs 36.Walked through the crowded market street onto Basin road and into my lodge.
Kochi(Cochin) , one of the World's best Natural harbours. Bolgatty Island  leisure cruise harbour.

Friday(11-3-2016)  Departure  Ernakulam and Arrival Mumbai :-  Woke up early as usual on  my birthday and also my last day in Kochi.
Fresh Fish auction at Ernakulam Market.

                                                                                           I was today 56 years of age  and nothing to be happy about  or celebrate ! I believe that as we age past 50 years we humans gradually degenerate physically  towards our average chronological life-span that culminates in  death,. That's the way the World has existed and will exist with life and death being a eternal cycle of all living things on Planet Earth.That's the reason i never celebrate my birthday as age is just a chronological number past your physical prime of 50 years and if you reach 100 years of age then its something to be celebrated !
Ernakulam Vegetable Market.
                                                  Take every birthday past 50 years of age as a life well lived as not most of us age gracefully with age, the physical body gradually yielding to ravages of the average human life-span. Why do your Insurance premiums increase with every birthday ? A "Life Insurance Agent" would envy my reasoning of birthdays and living.Put on my phone headphones and as usual it was Malayalam music  on "Mango Fm" and "Red Fm" as also on the other three FM channels.In Mumbai music is always playing at  my  house or in my earphones  whenever i am awake,Its  either the English channel "Radio FM-1" , or "Internet You tube" or Television "VH1" channel that's music to my ears. Popular Mumbai Radio jockey Mr Hrishikesh.Kannan better known as "Hrishi K", the anchor  of "Radio FM -1" is a Malayalee  by origin and hope he starts a pure English F.M channel in Kochi which is also Kerala's  tourist city.
Tragic Suicide by hanging on Market Road.

                                                                             I had skipped dinner yesterday since i had arrived late at the hostel and hence was hungry at dawn.Made my way into the now familiar Basin road  and onto Market road with the vegetable and fish vendors busy with the arrival of fresh products in lorry's and tempo's.At approximately 0700 hrs entered "Hotel Azad" situated on Market street and breakfast was appams with egg curry and tea costing Rs 36. Excellent for the price, Typical working class restaurant for the market crowd.After breakfast watched the restaurant cook preparing "Appams" , a rice specialty of Kerala. Visited the wholesale fruit dealer next to the restaurant and learnt the prices of wholesale fruits.
TOURIST HARBOUR CRUISE BOATS

                                                               Green bananas used for manufacture of chips cost Rs 40/Kg and sold in bunches.5 Kg bunch of oranges cost Rs 38/Kg .10 Kg bunch of green grapes cost Rs 55/Kg while the black variety was more expensive at  Rs 70/Kg. Besides sightseeing and exploring locales i had also learnt rudiments of the wholesale markets ! Memories of Byculla in Bombay(Mumbai) where i grew up during my childhood  and youth years of the 1960's/70's. I was casually walking along the narrow  Basin road heading towards Marine Drive when i suddenly observed some people staring at a large Banyan tree next to the closed  shops situated along  the footpath of the  road.I looked up at the tree  and initially didn't notice anything.
A  Cruise in Kochi on 56th Birthday.

                                                                                                                                               On glancing  again saw a young man hanging from a branch of the tree and mistook it to be some film shooting in progress. At 0720 hrs  in the morning  as the crowd was sparse i presumed a film was being shot on location..The people were just staring at the man.Then to my horror  realized that a dead healthy young  man wearing a clean  light blue colored shirt and lungi  was hanging from the branch and that this was no early morning  film shoot.Made inquiries but since no one in the market vicinity spoke English  was told in rudimentary Hindi that he was a labourer working in the market. He had climbed onto the roof of a shop named "Shaheen Traders(Merchants & Commission agents) "and slung a thick  nylon rope over the branch while using a chair to hang himself, akin to a public execution as seen in movies.
Walkway over "Basin Canal" mouth  on  Marine Drive 

                                                                                                                                               What puzzled my "Sherlock Holmes" inquisitiveness was as to how did he manage to commit  suicide without anyone not seeing him climbing the shop roof  with a heavy chair and long nylon  rope ? The junk  wooden chair's cane seat had given way and was hollow making standing or seating on this chair  difficult, especially on a uneven roof in the darkness.Agreed he must have committed suicide sometime at night or early morning but the market street always would have some person awake or sleeping in some odd space .Was he murdered and the same made to resemble a suicide ? My "Sherlock Holmes" mind was being investigative.This man was no celebrity nor wealthy and i was sure that it would just be  minor news in the next days local newspapers since it was a sensational sight and seen by a large public.
MARINE DRIVE promenade seen from cruise boat.

                                                                              I began filming the scene  and also made a video. The first "Citizen Reporter" at the scene of a death, much before the arrival of the police or official news agency journalists.Two police Inspectors  arrived later and just walked up to the tree and shop roof-top making inquiries as also did some locals. The dead man's body was just left dangling from the huge iconic banyan tree akin to a art exhibit in the centre of the busy market that was gradually getting crowded with vendors and vehicles.Reminded me of the  English rock group "Beatles" tragic  real life song based on the suicide of a London aristocrat with lyrics, quote, "I read the news today o boy". Yes, here i was witnessing the next days news to be written and that too on my 56th birthday .Life cannot  be more bizarre.
"BOLGATTY ISLAND"
                                                                                                                                        Later the next day in  Mumbai googled the news of Ernakulam for Friday(11-3-2016) and surely enough this suicide was a small news item.  Read in the  "New Indian Express" and "The Hindu" newspaper  editions  that this man named Thankappan  aged 42 years was a migrant from  Tamil Nadu and   a business trader in the Ernakulam vegetable  market  residing at Ambalamughal. The "Hindu" newspaper stated that he was doing vegetable business since the last few years.Conflicting versions in the two papers as to whether he was a alcoholic  who committed suicide possibly due to monetary distress.The  "New Indian Express" paper also stated that a few days before a man had committed suicide by jumping from the office of the city Police Commissioner ! Seems Ernakulam  in recent days had a case of sensational suicides akin to fictional films.In  a sensational suicide  this anonymous tragic man got his "15 minutes of fame"  in the newspapers , something he didn't  achieve when alive.Numerous people commit suicides daily in India which go totally unnoticed besides the grieving relatives and close friends..For the first time in my life i had seen a human committing suicide and that too in such a grotesque manner akin to a public execution.Destiny played a strange role as i was at the right place at a wrong time to witness this public suicide akin to a public execution.If i had not walked through this road in the morning   then would have never witnessed this ghastly sight. Still bizarre was that just  the day before yesterday i had visited a "POLICE MUSEUM" for the first time in my life  in Mattancherry and here today i was witness to a suicidal death for the first time in my life. Reminded  me of the tragic Beatles classic hit song  with my own twist to the lyrics, quote, "I saw tomorrow's news today o people "! From Basin  road walked towards Marine drive  lake-side that had a few early morning walkers and boat owners awaiting tourist arrivals for joy rides around Kochi According to my original tour agenda  i would have arrived from the Lakshwadeep 5-day island cruise tour  today on the ship  M.V.Kavaratti and later boarded the plane to Mumbai.Destiny had changed my plans .Decided to take a harbour cruise and a boat owner approached me for a cruise costing Rs 500 for chartering a entire small pilot boat. I told him to gather other tourists to join the boat tour as i was a lone single tourist and would definitely not charter a entire small boat..
Ultra Luxurious Bolgatty Palace & Island Resort"

            I just loitered around the Marine Drive promenade when the boat man approached me later saying that he had gathered a few tourists and charges would be Rs 100/Person  for a ride around Kochi Vembunad lake harbour. Made my way to the tourist boat jetty and boarded the small pilot boat named "Advance" which had a young couple and their young son seated on the small boat  deck.Made myself comfortable on the deck and we had to wait for  another 10 minutes  until a fourth tourist  arrived to fill in the minimum quota for the price of the boat tour.At 0840 hrs our tour  boat skipper boarded the small boat and we let lose our mooring rope and set sail into the harbour. Malayalam language is the total language in Kerala and the boat skipper began explaining the various sights to the Couple in Malayalam while i intermittently asked questions in English.
At the steering helm of the cruise boat.

           The water was absolutely calm with Kochi being one of the World's largest natural harbours.While cruising  along the calm waters was shown the  container harbour  on Vypeen Island privately owned  and managed by a Dubai based company.Also got to view  the "Gosree Bridge- 1-2 &3" linking "Bolgatty Island, Vallarpadam and Vypeen islands to mainland Ernakulam. Finally we approached Bolgatty Island, the nearest to Ernakulam mainland  which housed the Dutch Palace.This Dutch Palace ,a large mansion is one of the oldest Dutch Palaces outside Holland having been built in 1744 by Dutch traders .This mansion was the Governor's Palace for the Dutch commander-in -chief of the Malabar  and later in 1909 was leased by the Dutch to the British.
A lifetime of sea-employment:- Tanker in Kochi harbour.
                                                                                                                                            It became the home of the British Governors as the seat of the British resident of Cochin during the British Raj until 1947.After Independence in 1947 the Palace  became the property of the state and converted into a luxury hotel resort called " The Bolgatty Palace and Island resort" having all 5-star amenities including a 9-hole golf course and a yacht harbour. We just circumnavigated this beautiful wooded island resort by  boat and spotted two large ocean sail vessels in the small  private yacht harbour.of this luxury hotel. Surely many yachts must have stopped at the Bolgatty Palace Island during adventure voyages across the World.Our tour finally came to an end and while approaching the pier  noticed the two small decorative arched bridges on either side of the Marine Drive promenade that was the entrance/exit  route to the  historic water
  "Gosree Bridge-1" linking Ernakulam to Bolgatty Island.

      Canal  of Basin road linking the harbour to Ernakulam .Canoes and small boats entered this narrow canal called the  Basin to trade spices and other goods.Today this Basin was akin to a gutter, abandoned and devoid of any fish due to pollutants.Hope this Basin is cleaned and restored into a true canal passageway across Market road.The boat ride came to a end at 0930 hrs and made my way across Marine Drive main road onto Market road  crossing the Basin Road small footbridge and into St Anthonys lodge.Lodge owner Raphael was at the reception and i told him my horror story of the man hanging from the tree on  Basin  road.Seems such a sight was never witnessed in the locality during his living memory although dead body's were occasionally found in the Basin canal.
Luxury Ocean Yacht at Bolgatty Island.

                                                                                                                                      My check-out time from the lodge  was 1200 hrs and hence decided to just have a bathe and relax as my "Spice Jet airways" flight was in the evening at 2105 hrs.Later walked to the famous  40 year old "Calicut Halwa and Bakery" shop  on  Jew Street as recommended by Raphael  and purchased "Kerala banana chips(Upperi) and  Kerala Halwa. the famous delicacies of Kerala. Watched the manufacture of banana chips made from the  Nendran variety  of raw bananas also my favourite snack when ripe.The Changanassery variety of  Nendran  banana is considered the best for manufacturing banana chips and same imported from the state of Tamil Nadu by trucks.This raw banana immediately turns golden  yellow when deep fried as i was witnessing in front of my eyes in this most popular shop in Kochi. In Mumbai and most places yellow colour is added to give the banana chips its golden yellow colour. Since i was travelling by air couldn't purchase much from this shop that besides banana chips had various other local sweets and eatables.After the purchase walked the short distance back to the lodge.
SHIPPING Evolution :-Local Canoe  trader in Kochi .

               Was relaxing in my room when Raphael told me that i could extend my stay upto 1400 hrs and that he would guide me to the bus-stop for the airport.Decided to celebrate my bizarre 56th birthday with a beer in my room and later a  lavish expensive solo  lunch ! I normally live a hermit's life during solo tours surviving on least expensive food and lodging while splurging on sight-seeing and death defying adventures Average Billionaires would shun my adventures for its risk factor barring a few like  la Sir Richard.Branson whose biography was my tour companion as also my inspiration.It takes all types of humans to populate Planet Earth.At 1100 hrs walked out of the lodge to the familiar Government liquor shop and stood in the queue to purchase a "London Pilsner" beer bottle.
Queue for purchasing liquor at Government  shop.

                                                                                                                     Returned back to the lodge  and sipped the beer while listening to "Mango FM" Malayalam music with a bit of Hindi music spun in-between the Malayalam songs.Raphael gave me directions for the best non-vegetarian restaurant in the vicinity situated next to Saravan vegetarian restaurant near High Court street road.After my thirst quenching  beer walked across Basin road onto the main High Court street at the other end of the lodge.Discovered the tiny entrance to "Hot& Sour" hotel situated next to the larger Saravan restaurant on the main road and entered a World of authentic Kerala cuisine.The restaurants name was in Malayalam which i got translated and  at 1300 hrs it was packed with customers.
Classic Kochi "Fish Curry  Thali" on banana leaf.

                                                                                                                                    The interior decor was akin to a house-boat with thatched coconut palms providing the false ceilings.Lunch was classic fish curry straight from the fishing net or hook  with a Kerala vegetable thali served on a  banana leaf.The best restaurant food of my tour in  Kochi with the bill amounting to a lavish Rs  290.After the sumptuous lunch headed the short distance back to my lodge, picked up my portable travel bag and accompanied by Raphael walked to the High Court road bus stop situated on main Marine Drive road.At approximately 1410 hrs boarded the "KSRTC" bus   thanking lodge owner Mr Raphael.Anthony for his hospitality and tour guidance in Kochi. As a "Solo Traveller" i  always do my  tour itinerary research at home in Mumbai and had read reviews from tourists praising Mr Raphael.Anthony for his guidance to tourists residing at his lodge.
"Kochi Stock Exchange".

                                      I had now personally experienced it first hand and honestly without his guidance my solo Kochi tour would have been a bit difficult as i use public transport and the fact that besides Malayalam language few  average common Malayalee's spoke English.It was a long bus journey  costing Rs 23 through the initial narrow roads of Ernakulam and later the main highway.Passed along the landmark  Lulu mall and later  the Cochin Stock exchange  which was surprisingly a small insignificant building barring its bold name on the edifice.At approximately 1515 hrs reached a highway by-pass road  where i alighted the bus to board a auto-rickshaw to the airport.Boarded a shared rickshaw with a student  costing Rs 70/passenger and finally reached Kochi International airport at 1530 hrs.
At Kochi Airport awaiting "SPICE JET" flight. to Mumbai.

                                                                                                                                         Alighted the auto-rickshaw at the domestic departure terminal  and checked in at the "Spice Jet" counter.Collected my boarding pass and as i was very early at 1530hrs whiled away my time at the departure waiting lounge reading Sir Richard.Branson's autobiography "Losing my Virginity".Later checked into the security counter as usual and entered the main plush boarding lounge.Boarding time  for "Spice Jet  Flight  No 154" was prompt at 1840 hrs and made my way  to window seat No 17 F The plane was  full to capacity barring a single  vacant seat next to my window seat ! Had this passenger missed the flight or worse committed suicide or been  murdered or just avoided me !I have reasons for this Paranoia as its a  bizarre factual  puzzle of two bizarre occurrences on my 56th anonymous birthday. VERY SCARY 56th BIRTHDAY CO-INCIDENCES. Besides Uncles Godwin.Gonsalves and Uncle Wnniebald.Furtado  i didn't receive any phone  calls nor "F.B" greetings from friends but from my  Cousins, the "Ferts Family" from Bangalore whose matriarch mum's sister Mrs Urban.Ferts is 90 years of age. Yes, longevity genes of both my maternal as well as paternal sides indicates that i should also reach a Octogenarian age.Only hope that if i do have a long life my money doesn't outlive me  as more than death it is poverty that scares me. The plane .took-off at 1910 hrs from  Kochi  landing  at Mumbai airport at 2115 hrs.Walked out of the plane into the arrival lounge and out of the airport. Booked a pre-paid taxi, the bill being Rs 312  and was at home in Prabhadevi at approximately 2200 hrs.Opened a bottle of "Johnnie Walker Black Label " at home  and along with my house-keeper Sabina.Dias and cats "Matahari" and "Matata"  brought to a close a bizarre 56th birthday 2016.  End of a safe and adventurous solo tour.