Trivandrum - and departure for home - Day 26
Updated: Jun 22
Our guide Ajith was determined to show us all Trivandrum had to show. Incidentally, Trivandrum is NOT the way the locals spell it. A little like the Welsh, their language contains way too many vowels and consonants for normal folk. I was grateful for the abbreviated version! Our guide was determined we got full value on this, our final day in India. We started with a trip to a fishing village near Kovalam where, arriving early in the day to beat the heat, we were lucky to climb down to the beach in time to watch men pull nets in from the sea. There must have been twenty or more men sharing the load as they hauled the heavy wet net in. The guide explained the catch brought in from the ocean by the fishing boats was usually sold but the take from local nets was shared amongst the men for their own use in the village. If this is so, it was lean pickings. They’d have been lucky to get a small sprat each, for all their efforts. It is recognised that these don't generate profit - just enough to go around for the families to eat for the day. I have to say the takings looked small. A savvy housewife would be hard pressed to stretch the take into a family meal. It took an enormous amount of man power to pull the net in, yet the return was minimal. I couldn’t determine whether this was due to off shore overfishing by larger commercial boats, or whether the small catch was a reflection of the season. The village was prettily arranged around a bay. The Muslim community, with its mosque, was on the northern side of the bay, while the southern, Christian side had an attractive church and a statue of the Virgin looking out to sea. Between these two lay the brightly painted fishing fleet pulled up on the shore. As the boats came in, the catch was immediately claimed by the fishermen’s wives and daughters who set up shop on the beach. This impromptu market happens every day, selling the fish is exclusively a female responsibility and they pride themselves on being savvy dealers. Later, in Trivandrum, we toured the Kanakaunnu Palace, with it’s marvelous frieze of horses supporting the outer edges of the roof. We toured the treasures stored there. There is unimaginable wealth tucked away in these palaces – truly those princes lived well. We stopped at the art gallery. How artists express their views of history is always fascinating – here were western colonial artists celebrating the Raj, more modern, Indian artists focusing on a newer India, and some international painters drawn to India’s dramatic landscapes. I was deeply moved by a small painting simply entitled ‘Johar’, focusing on a group of women lining up to enter a fire lit room. As waves of armies waged war in the north, particularly in the wars between the Hindu princes and the Islamic Mughals, there were several occasions where royal women, realising their side had lost, chose to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of the invading army. They were accompanied by their maids and other women servants who presumably also preferred a quick fiery death to being raped, humiliated and enslaved. The largest recorded number to die together was 17,000. I hadn’t heard of this rite before and mass, ritual suicide by women is almost incomprehensible to my western mind, but it happened on several well-documented occasions. I’m only surprised it hasn’t featured in Game Of Thrones! Our final dinner together in the evening was a sad occasion. I imagine all of us had made new friends and made tentative attempts to keep in contact once we returned home. Like most ship-board friendships we also knew the odds against this occurring were high. The 4 hour flight from Trivandrum to Singapore was miserable. Although run by Singapore Airlines, usually reliable for a comfortable flying experience, the aircraft was tiny, packed and had no on-board entertainment. The cramped conditions made it impossible to sleep, even though we didn’t depart until 11pm, and we arrived in Singapore at 5am tired, grumpy and with a 16 hour layover ahead of us. For the first time ever we took advantage of Singapore airports facilities, booked in to an in-terminal hotel – and slept the day away. I’ve never been in such a quiet hotel – which makes sense I suppose seeing most guests would spend their time asleep. It was a much better flight back to Auckland. The aircraft was larger, and there was space to spread out and get some more sleep as well as watch an in-flight movie. I also have to comment on how nice it was to return to a normal level of airport security after India’s draconic measures. Habituated now to emptying out everything in my hand luggage I started pulling out my Kindle, connectors, leads, drives and plugs, only to be stopped by a startled official who assured me that they were only interested in my computer. And now we’re home looking back on the most amazing experiences. I can’t recommend visiting India highly enough – it offered a densely layered experience, and wasn’t at all what I expected, being much cleaner, modern and developed. Their internet provision leaves NZ in the dust and it was sobering to see the effort India is putting into renewable energy sources, into gender equality, education and reforestation. But of course, it was the colourful clothes, the vivid skies, rich history, beautiful buildings and wonderful people that made the whole trip such a delight. Thoroughly recommended!