I wanted you all to be able to see the other people I’m traveling with, so here’s a couple of pictures of our field study group on our midterm retreat to Kochi (Cochin). In the left-side photo above, starting from the far left we have Sarah, Christine, Kristi, Tatia … and then Courtney’s over on the far right. I’m the bloak with the Old Navy shirt and the wind-blown hair.
This, for me, has always been an enjoyable trip. I’ve described the Fort Cochin area a little bit in a previous entry, so I think I’ll just mention a couple of my favorite things to see there.
One is the Ramayana murals at the Mattancherry Palace. The Ramayana is one of India’s great epics, and one of my favorite stories (Hanuman, a shapeshifting monkey-warrior, is the best character). The murals show the epic in a series of sequential pictures, kind of like a comic book but without clear divisions between the frames—one scene blends into the next. Kristi tells me there’s a term for this in European art, but she’s not on hand at the moment to remind me of what it is. In any case, I really enjoy following the pictures, and trying to separate each of the different scenes. The bad news is that photography is forbidden inside the palace, and I have not been able to find decent reproductions of the murals anywhere. The good news is that there were a couple of commissioned artists carefully sketching the murals while we were there this time—maybe someone besides me finally thinks these paintings are worth preserving and sharing.
Another highlight for me is seeing the Kerala backwaters. You can arrange a backwater tour almost anywhere in Fort Cochin. Basically, the tour involves being taken upriver by taxi for about an hour, being put in a wooden boat, and sitting for hours while two guys push you around in the boat with long bamboo poles. It’s all very passive really, like watching Letterman, except that you’re experiencing something beautiful. The people living there have dug a vast network of canals branching off from the slow-moving river. It’s like Venice in that these canals are the primary way for people to get around. So for hour upon hour we sat on the boat with coconut groves crowding up to the water’s edge and watercraft (mostly motorless) sliding by. It was most tranquil. There is nothing so soothing, I believe, as a coconut grove, and that day coconut groves were to be had in abundance.