Among the many genres of writing and journalism, I have special envy reserved for travel writers. Their words bring to life the sights and the sounds, the smells and the tastes of the places they visit. Most travel writers spend their lives travelling, living in different places and writing extensively about those places.
I am the opposite of such travel writers.
I travel to places for a maximum of one or two days; barely step out of the room before the sun sets, and am quite contended to look at the city from my hotel window, tucked comfortably under the blanket while watching Zee Cinema. If I were writing this for Travel and Living or Discovery Travel, I doubt they would publish it – the research is shoddy and selective, the facts are not grounded in figures and numbers. The opinions are clouded by personal judgement and bias.
But thankfully, this isn’t a magazine, and since you haven’t paid 140 bucks for glossy pictures of Ranveer Singh chilling in Switzerland, you’ll have to make do with this poorly researched, not-grounded-in-facts article.
The first thing that strikes you in Kochi is the unforgiving summer heat. You could be the noblest person in the history of Kochi, or you could be Sreesanth – the Kochi heat forgives no one. It was 6.45 AM when I landed, and I immediately put on my shades.
The second thing that strikes you about Kochi is the cleanliness. If you’ve wondered about the impact of 100% literacy in the state, you just have to look at the roads. They are wide, clean, efficient – and there are no beggars!! I did not see one, single beggar in the two days I spent at Kochi.
The other effect of 100% literacy in Kerala is the discipline that people have inculcated in their day to day lives. Traffic rules are adhered to, there are no Uday Chopras on yellow bikes carting through the wrong side of the road. Pedestrians are allowed to use the zebra crossing through out the day.
And the food!!
Rohit and me walked into restaurants and asked them for recommendations – and ended up eating orgasm-inducing Idiyappam and chicken/beef curry. Followed by Dubai Shake and Sharjah Sheikh, which makes you feel like the owner of a fleet of camels in the Middle East.
The recent tragedy that struck Kerala – bars were banned in the state and a heavy police crackdown on marijuana – was a dampener to our otherwise happy, humid spirits, but we allowed ourselves the luxury of a three hour nap before the show.
If you’ve wondered about the effect of 100% literacy in Kerala, here’s a discovery I made – Kochi people do not turn up to stand up comedy shows! We had publicised the show well in advance, giving interviews to three newspapers. By the time the show began, the number of people in the audience made me feel less like a comedian and more like a stripper!
But the show had to go on as (whoever that asshole was!) said. By the end of the show, we had a few happy gentlemen, a few bemused teenagers, and one 12 year old boy who had closed his ears for the second half of the show!!
The most striking aspect of Kochi though, struck me as we were leaving the city – the Cochin International Airport.
Another side effect of 100% literacy in Kerala is that Cochin people decided to wave a middle finger at other airports in the city. They did things their style.
As the plane descended down on the airport, I craned my neck to get a first aerial look of the city.
I like making shallow first impressions of the city before landing in the city. If you ever fly to Chandigarh for example, you’ll find beautiful, planned patches of land in varying shades of green. If you plane descends down on Hyderabad, you get to witness brown barren land that will remind you of Aurangzeb’s tenure in the Deccan Plateau.
The Kochi airport looks like a beautiful private estate, akin to the vast estates that Bollywood villains possess in their ‘den’, as they plan to spread poison in the veins of the country.
Most airports in India are clones of each other. They are all desperately trying to look glossy, friendly, jazzy. Polished floors and bored janitors sweeping up after spilled Coca-Colas. Stores with shiny brands on both sides, salespersons challenging you to buy even a single product from them! Eateries where they charge 300 bucks for a 2 idlis, 1 vada, and some healthy Oxygen.
The Cochin International Airport does none of this.
Everything about the airport is old school. The overpowering colour in the airport is a maple, wooden brown. The first impression you get when you walk in, is of a railway station in 1995.
The stalls sell regular stuff like Malayala Manorama Yearbooks, Ayurveda potions and Ponds Dreamflower Talc bottles in pink and violet variants. The eateries sell food that is targeted not at Donald Trump, but at Arvind Kejriwal. The aunty who serves the food does not have the snooty look of the Rado salesperson, but the warm smile of Kaveriamma.
The waiting area in the airport gives off a warm vibe – the chairs have thick cushions on them, the airport assistants are curt and friendly – like friendly relatives who wear a mock-sad expression when you leave their house. The entire space has a cosy, intimate feeling – like we are all strangers who turned up for a wedding, standing in line patiently to greet the newly-weds on the stage. Also, I found that the prettiest girls in Kochi were in the airport, leaving the city!
As I sat on my seat, and the girl next to me took out her Bible for some quick revision, I made two quick decisions – 1. I need to visit Kochi again, 2. It needed to be in the winter.
Bye bye, Kochi. Your airport fucking rocks!! Keep it that way.