|A Science Fiction Fanzine||Spring - Summer 2007|
Part III... continued from:
Then south by bus to the coast, where our French ship, Le Levant, ushered us into elegant staterooms and well coordinated programs. Great food, careful handling, generally superb. Elisabeth was pleased to speak French to the crewmembers and not have to eat Indian food all the time. Greg had spent two previous month-long trips to India, roughing it around the north, largely on his own. Time to take it easy!
Around the southern point of India we went, sailing along the west coast states of Kerala and Karnataka. We stopped each day at a port town, went onshore for experiences — farming, rubber plantation, fruit harvesting, cashew nut processing, plus the inevitable temples, churches, local architecture, and even a synagogue from 1568. Heat, humidity, rich smells. And souvenir hawkers!
Cochin was especially interesting; the state of Kerala has hosted international visitors for millennia, including Jews after the Diaspora, Arabs, Dutch, Portuguese, and finally the British.
We watched antiquated Indian fishing techniques, using big dip nets (‘Chinese’ nets), and circular throw nets just as Greg once did on the Gulf Coast, and his relatives still do. But here they get little fish and crabs, with shrimp the best haul, and few per cast. The entire coast is fished out; a marine naturalist commented on the many undersized fish in the markets.
One oddity was the mud-fishing by poor women who walked neck-deep through the muddy water, towing empty aluminum water jugs. They massage the bottom sludge with their feet, feeling the mud smelt that hide there. When one stirs under a foot, they can propel the thrashing, palm-sized smelt up with their feet, grab it in hand, and pop it into their jugs. With plastic bags over their hair to keep off sun and water, they earnestly work their way in teams along the bay. The smelt they catch are smaller than their palms.
Greg tried a milk-white ‘toddy’ that smelled of raw rubber, but was fermented coconut palm sap. A toddy-wallah climbs the palm periodically to harvest the sap, using a ladle. Fierce, sharp, warming the belly: nature’s cocktail. This is not the same as coconut water drunk with a straw right from the freshly opened coconut. The latter is available everywhere; in the shell, from carts and small roadside stands.
We took a day-cruise of inland canals through extensive rice paddies and small agricultural settlements in local houseboats.
At a beachfront hotel in Goa, a former Portuguese colony and internationally popular resort, Greg bodysurfed the warm waves of the Arabian Sea, which was much like the Gulf Coast of Alabama. Elisabeth tried the swimming pool instead.