Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kashmir in Kochi

I was in Kochi last week to set-up a company with some friends. From Kashmir to Kerala, the irony wasn't lost on me. My Christian friend from Kerala doesn't worry much about history or politics but then he need not be, Kerala is not a conflict zone. Fortunately, I can't enjoy that freedom. Only people of conflict entertain themselves watching Owl of Minerva in flight and occasionally shooing the owl into flight. So I know a bit about caste, class and religion based politics of Kerala. There are some parallels between political history of Kashmir and that of Kerala but with Five major differences: One, Kashmir is a conflict zone. Two, politics never really took root in Kashmir. Three, Communism in Kerala was not something that only inspired populist laws and literature, it changed a lot of things on ground and then in turn the Congress lead forces (under Nehru/Indira) that opposed it (with the backing of Christians) also found a political space leading to a heavily contested state where economic prosperity of castes and religious groups got spread out, leading to a state where a Nair would vote for Communist party while a Christian would vote for Congress. A state where Muslims would align with 'who-so-ever' powers who would take care of their interests. Four, Kerala is protected by sea, there was no post-partition effect, no Pakistan next to it. Five, population number of the minorities in the state was substantial enough to encourage this kind of politics...No there are actually six major differences. Number six,...everything is different.

 Inane meanderings of people of conflict. On the ground it is all the same: Student wing of CPI(M) having street fights with RSS people. Young people thinking BJP rule, or a  Jam-ath rule, will be a good experience. Some old things: Muslims, bachelors, 'girls-in-shorts' and Film-wallas and their troubles finding rented accommodation in a society run by association of Family-wallas. But somehow there is peace. Normality. Calmness. 

Cherai Beach

Staring at the Arabian sea, I wondered about the sheer number of Kashmiri folktales (compiled by Rev. J. Hinton Knowles in late 1800s) centered around 'sea voyage'. Why were Kashmiri telling stories of sea? Why was the hero running to the sea? How would they know what sea smells like. Vastness of Himalayas and of the Vastness of sea are poles apart. Kashmir and sea are poles apart.

And yet, I did find Kashmir in Kochi.



At least half of it. In an indifferent map.


And in fantasies. Lavish, beautiful and morbid.

What am I doing here?

But then accidently I found some fellow Kashmiris too. They too traveling for rozi-roti. At a place that long ago provided refugee to another set of Pardesi, foreign immigrants.



At Mattancherry, Jew Town, for lunch my friends walked into a restaurant that turned out to be run by a Kashmiri family. Of all the places. I had my first formal conversation in Kashimiri with a stranger in Kerala! They opened up their kitchen for me and I was able to peek inside. Typical Kashmiri set-up.





'Takhtaa Mondhur', the wooden log traditionally used for cutting meat, brought all the way from Kashmir. We ordered two pieces of Gostaba, four bowls of Rista with two piece each and rice for four.


Ejaz opened up the place around 25 days back. I noticed that Rista had a more soupy feel to it and a different taste. Ejaz mentioned that here they add extra saffron to everything, apparently the foreign tourists love it, so all the traditional recipes have been modified. Bill was around Rs.1000. Meat is a lot costly in Kerala  while cheaper options are fish (available obviously in plenty), beef (a good decent plate of fry for breakfast can cost as little as Rs. 40. Most of the cattle is imported from T.N) and chicken (available universally).

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4 comments:

  1. Hi Vinayak! Just wanted to compliment you on the great blog you have. The posts are quite addictive and I must say, thanks for sharing such interesting bits and pieces about a land which we never stop raving about and yet know so little of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Suman, thanks for reading! I am off to Kashmir next week, hopefully I will have something interesting to share from the trip.

      Delete
  2. I keep seeing Kashmiri carpet/gift shops at all popular tourist destinations. Goa, Bangalore. Mysore, etc. Very enterprising chaps and friendly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely enterprising. And they have been doing this for quite some time. I didn't know about Mysore though.

      Delete

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