Frohliche Weinachten

Frohliche Weinachten

Thursday, December 25, 2003 Travelogue:  Excerpts from past impressions and experiences in India (see the first travelogue segment we posted)

Kerala, Southern India

Selecting Chennai – India’s fourth-ish largest city – as our port of entry into India is comparable to the average European deciding to launch their American tour from Detroit.  It is a city one would normally not visit unless, well, unless you had to…  We’ve crossed the peninsula from east to west via the Cardamom Hills in the Western Ghats, and our arrival in Kochi, Kerala was much anticipated.  Kochi is a seaside town full of travelers (imagine even the western men wearing colorful head scarves to hide the dirty hair days) w/ a Jewish quarter, two churches, and a semi-posh coffee shop to hideout in.

Last night we attended midnight mass at the Santa Cruz Cathedral – people were spilled out onto the drive and the sermon was given in English and then Malayalam.  The cathedral itself was becoming in its state of decay – the paint was peeling but the holy water holders were full and you could tell by the look of the worn cross hanging from a side wall that is was worn from constant displays of devotion.  People in the back of the congregation would drop to their knees to pray at any time during the sermon.  Like the Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu, it is moving to see a religious monument so alive w/ use.

Pure Veg food is eaten w/ the hands on real banana leaves.  Banana leaves are much larger than your average plate and require a sprinkled bottled water wash before use.  You’re supposed to fold your leaf when you are done, indicating to the ever-friendly waiter that he can stop reloading your leaf w/ dahls, rice and chutney.

From our Rough Guide:  “In an incredibly complicated process of philosophical analysis known as Anekanatavada (many-sidedness) Jainism approaches all questions of existence, permanence, and change from seven different viewpoints, maintaining that things can be looked at in an infinite number of valid ways.  Thus it claims to remove the intellectual basis for violence, avoiding the potentially damaging result of holding a one-sided view.”  We were lucky enough to stay w/ a Jain Gujarati family in Madurai – Jains are strictly pure veg – no meat, eggs, etc. – and they do not eat past sunset.  They will not eat anything grown underground like onions or garlic or carrots or potatoes, and they are pacifist, practicing a strict code of non-violence.  Imagine our horror when Jonit clapped about loudly killing a mosquito buzzing in the air above her head.  Not only did she kill the pest, but she killed it w/ a smile…”Kill it before it has a chance to kill you” is our philosophy.  The oldest daughter Dimple, sprawled comfortably on a wicker chair, said only: “We don’t do that.  It’s a life.”

How many differences may we continue to encounter?

My thoughts are w/ you all on Christmas.  Have a super wild New Year’s Eve!