Train journeys however, are always spent with my nose buried in a book, if not looking out of the bars of the windows at the speeding world outside, moving forward or backward, depending on which side of the berth you are sitting. The fleetingness of everything beautiful and ugly, just passing by relentlessly, is sometimes unsettling. Like a life on fast forward with you playing the role of an inconsequential observer with absolutely no control over anything. A tiny speck of insignificance hurtling through the labyrinth of humankind.
Despite the fact that that Kerala has been made into a concept — a ‘God’s own Country’ to be bottled, packaged, repackaged and sold to spend-happy honeymooners from India and tourists across the globe. Despite all the travel clichés, must-do lists and wellness holiday fads involving Ayurveda, Kalaripayattu and Kathakali. Despite all the marketing genius in their tourism campaigns, there’s a wild, untamed quality to Kerala’s beauty.
The Jewish Synagogue in Fort Kochi was always on my list of places to see after I read the enchanting descriptions of it in Rushdie’s book. So, I could barely contain my excitement all through our lovely walk to the Jew Street. The paths leading up to the synagogue transports you into another world. A tourist-targeted experience of course, with its quaint antique shops housing everything from priceless treasures and pretty baubles to nostalgia-ridden spices. But as you walk through the winding lanes, past the captivating window displays and ignore the empathetic sales pitch of every store-appointed lurer on the street and observe more closely, you will find a cultural encounter beyond the ones designed for tourist.
At Ernakulam yet? You just got off a train? Ok, then you are in the right place. Destination Fort Kochi. Let’s take this nice and slow. No hurry to get anywhere. Just a calm sense of exploration. Don’t lock yourself up in air-conditioned box of wheels, shutting out the world. Take a bus to Kochi. Look outside the window. Everything you thought was mundane will suddenly want to tell you a story.