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Marco Pola - A traveller (f)

Very Costly

15/3/08 Munnar, India

I love that simple Indian expression: ‘Very Costly!’
It means also: I can not afford it!

I am not an Historian, nor a proffesional traveller (…Marco Pola 😉 ) but it’s interesting to see the changes of places according to the rulers.

The Portuguese on concering India around 1500, left a lot of impressive Churches on the most remarkable & noticable places, and did a lot of missionary work – converting Indus to Christians. On the west cost, where I am visiting now, in Kerala district – there are 20% Christians. Next to my bed the Holy Bible is proudly placed.

The Dutch appeared on 1661, ‘reordered’ a lot of the Churches from Catholic to Protestant, and even destroyed some, but they were tolerant in general.

The English concered Cochin on 1795 and ruled until 1947, some 150 years.
The British enjoyed India, they had lots of English Garden Tea Parties, but mainly they enjoyed the cheep labour and used their goods & treasures.

In India there are 26 counties with some hundred spoken languages, so the English language units the country!!
It gives them a bigger opportunity over others in the joined global market.

The British left a ‘Very Costly’ treasure in India – the English language.

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Marco Pola - A traveller (f)

The Darkness Stroke – Plague

In memory to the coming Jewish Passover Holiday & the 10 plagues in Egypt – Learning on the Darkness Stroke in India

Munnar, India 13/3/08

Every one that visits India, soon enough finds out that there is a daily electricity run down.
Each day in the morning or in the evening, or both – the duration can be from one hour to 3 hours = NO electricity!

Lucky enough for me, in the 3 weeks that I am in India, in all the places I stayed there was a generator that soon replaced the main electricity source.

Munnar, The country of tea plantation

Now I am writing in the DARK!
I am amazed to discover (only now!) that people are very adaptable! We can adapt to every thing. Of course if we want!!! A bit of complaints, a bit discomfort, but soon we adapt. With that kind of power that we have, no donut we rule the world, also exploit it to the brim.

I was lucky to arrive to Munnar the day before yesterday, as to get The Darkness Stroke on the my FIRST night it’s a bit too much. Every time I arrive in a new place my first night is a bit rigged – I listen to the new night sounds, I look at the creatures in my room, I listen to the dogs bark outside etc. I am a city rat, so the noises I know are of loud Police cars, loud cry of Ambulances cars etc.

In My journey I discover again the sounds of nature. The ‘music’ in each place is very different. In New Zealand there are a lot of crickets. (Zarzarim = Hebrew) They sit on a tree – one huge colony. When one passes under that tree the chirping is so loud that it can hurt one’s hears. These crickets are very particular, they choose only certain trees they like to live on.
They do not like just any other tree!
I listened to that huge choir on one tree, and in the next one it’s a complete silence.
Only then I can hear the birds singing too, Thank God they can raise their voices also.

Auroville is a real country side, without nearly any cars and pretty far from big cities, so the voices of nature are loud & proud. Each night is adventures and creative according to the events of the season and the ‘symphony’ will be different. Even before midnight, at just one loud bark of a dog – a major choir of dog barks starts all ever the region. At that same time the jackals are waiting… then they will wake up completely, and their sound is like a line of trumpets in a live concert.
To hear the noises of the jackals just out side of my room, made me quickly lock myself in behind closed doors. But, in most houses in Auroville there is a generator!
That was the time I realize that I must get a torch…. Ha Ha

Other exciting voices I got to know in Auroville at Ilona & Tony’s house. On the roof, actually in their attic – there live one big happy family of squirrels. I was told about them, so when I went to sleep I was ready. I must say, they have a busy life, chasing & running up and down all night.
Also I saw & heard the lizards!!! They have a loud squawk when they chase one another in romantic events: “Come to me my love!” they probably say to each other in a squawky voice. 🙂

You must see my hand writing now, as I write with my small torch = it’s looks BALAGAN!!! (rough writting)
But…. with an Indian buttery it’s soon going to be off too.

On top of the Darkness Plague, I have now a strong stomach pain. Eating the Indian food is fine, but it’s pretty HOT, and my stomach have to get used to digest it. (adaptation)
The buttery is finally dead, and the pain in my stomach increased.

I was so astonished that an hour later, when the electricity came back, the pain in my stomach went away, slowly but surly.

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Marco Pola - A traveller (f)

Cochin and me

…and/or Who is a Jew?

Cochin, India 10/03/08

When travelling in India there is so much to see in that vast continent, and so many wonderful places, that’s important to choose the subject matter of ones interest.

I choose to visit Cochin because of the Jewish long history of the town, so I travelled 20 hours on 3 trains to get there.

I am happy to announce again that Jewish roots are deep inside me – even being an ‘Yehudi Chilony’. (Yehudia Chilonit)
My Jewishness is wakened when needed. [In my visit in Bet Chabad in Bangkok, when talking to the Rabi, he said: It’s a wrong to use the word ‘Chilony’ as it means ‘chol’ = ‘Sand’, and Jewish are Holy. Which means that it have to be reminded to the Media, Press and New publications etc.]

Typical window in Jew Road, Cochin

Seeing that long Jewish history of that picturesque town, and the vivid road called: Jew Town – a busy place, full of business with lovely spicy aroma all over that street. Lucky enough the name of that old street was not renamed.

That opened in me the wounds of our unresolved political situation in my home land = Israel.

Cochin brings a history of town that it’s people embraced the Jews for many generations. They were welcomed because of the Jews unique business qualities & ability, that was needy for the business & trade of the town with the out side world, they exported: spices, tea, ivory, teak, oils, peacocks etc. – .

On 1568 the synagogue of Cochin was build, extremely near the Maharajah’s Palace. The walls of Maharajah’s palace touched the synagogue’s court yard, the cemetery, & the congregations homes, all to protect the Jews!

The Jews first settled in that part of India, as far as 992 BC on Sholom’s time, the King of Israel. Than, when the Jews fled on 70 AC all over the wold and to India, some say. Joseph Raba – A Jewish leader, got the Magna Carta in Cochin on 379 AC, 3 pliz plates that declared honor to the Jews. Even Marco Polo among ancient travellers mentioned Jews in Quilon.
Joseph AZAR, a Jewish Prince swam with his wife on his back on 1524. They fled from the Portuguese (at time of the Spanish Acquisition) and got the protection of the Maharajah of Cochin. Hs was later the one to build the Synagogue. In one of the paintings we can see the Maharajah’s family watching over the window looking at the synagogue’s foundations.

The Synagogue itself is full of visitors from all ever the world. The atmosphere if of tranquility and simplicity with old glory. It’s one of the 10 main attractions of the city. The main hall is nearly empty but some old bunches next to the walls, and in the centre the Reading area of the Torah, 3 steps high. Chinese hand painted tiles were laid in 1762 on the synagogue’s flour, a total of 1100 tiles were brought over from Canton in China, no one of the tails alike. On the western wall towards the east there is a red cover, behind there are at some Torah books with golden & silver crowns. (not to be seen only on ceremonies.) Every Friday & Suturday there is a ceremony, for Jews only. Jewish people are invited to come for Minian, as there are only 15 men & women in the congregation.
On the Second flour there is Esrat Nashim, behind a wooden decoration.

Moses Pereya from the Jewish community in Amsterdam send from Cochin his report on 1686. That first & most important historical document that was ever written or published of the Jews in Cochin: There were 4 synagogues and 128 families in Cochin, another 4 synagogues in the greater area with around 62 families and 550 people.

On the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Synagogue, with the presents of Smt. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, and a special stamp and first day cover were issued, there was great pride of all sides.

It’s exciting for me to see that kind of respect for my people. That’s the basic Hindu perception to the ‘other’ on general. Hindu have great tolerance to others no matter what & who they are, or of what religion.

When most of that Indian community arrived in Israel on 1949, with great excitement – the BIG Question rose, like time and again –
Who is a Jew?

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Marco Pola - A traveller (f)

Traveling to Cochin, the Indian way(*)

Cochin, India 6/3/08

I am on my way to Cochin. (The old Jewish town).
I arrived in Pondicerry and with the help of a nice driver I managed to conduct the difficult task of buying a train ticket. To buy a ticket one should order days in advance, also to fill a full form of personal details: Name, age, address etc. Other wise one is traveling in the compartment that is open to all the crowed.

Cochin, The Jew Road

I took the first train to Villupuram. It was 8 rupees only for 1 hour trip. People were asleep on the benches, loud voices and shouting were every were. Suddenly a really scruffy woman came, a beggar, looked at me and she could not leave the sight of me. Every minute she moved to a different seat until eventually she sat opposite me, moving away the woman that was sitting opposite me. She was with no shoes and some teeth messing, but she was looking at me with a big smile. I was looking at the other end, trying to void an eye contact but she continued to stair at me. Every time we had an eye contact, she smiled pleasantly at me like she is the happiest person in the world. Happily I left the train on my station.

I was with 3 heavy bags, there was no way I will go with them to the box office to buy a ticket to my next destination. As I am a stranger, people start immediately to talk to me. They are looking for any excuse to start a conversation. So I am using it too, to find out were I should go for my next train.

A nice family started a conversation with me, in the end the husband volunteered to buy me my ticket to Tirucuchchirapali. It’s even difficult to say the mane of the town… The lovely family of 3 = parents and a kid at the age of 10, were so happy to help me, talking hardly any English, but all smiling.

The right train arrived. A mass of people that came from all over jumped into the train, I followed the nice family. The train was packed to the brim!!! there were no places to seat or hardly any way to stand. Suddenly a man came close and said to me that it’s not a place for me to travel in that compartment, and he helped me out in a rush with my bags to move to the reserved seats. He said to me: There is only some chance of having a space to seat on the flour… I said OK.
I got in. That compartment was full to the brim too, but the people looked tidyer, like middle class. I had just about a space to stand up. Eventually after 2 hours sitting on the flour, I set down between a nice Indian family of 15 that traveled with thier olds & babies to a Holy Temple festival. With the skarf of her Surri a woman did a cradle that was tied to the top rake, and her baby rested for the 4 hour journey peacfully.

I arried at my station, lots of peple left in a harry to their destinatins. Now I was looking for the night train to Cochin. I bought an ordinary ticket as there was no sleepers at the last moment, but there is always a chance! I was told.
Even that I was first, there were only 3 places in the sleepers and they were given to American-Indians with kids, that spoke the local langwich.

I slept on the couch, took out my pillow, and slept most of the night, opposite to a nice young woman.

At 06.45 I arrived to Ernakulam, a town next to Cochin, and took a Riksha car to Cochin! It was a bright morning, the town was waking up.
Now I am staying in a homely place – Orion Holidays, with hot water!
I must say I am enjouing every minute of it.

(*) p.s. I did not travel the Indian way – as they are booking their tickets weeks, months in advance.