Four reasons to visit Fort Kochi: Friends, fish, fun and foreign country feel
How we spent a rather lazy evening and some money at Fort Kochi…
It was a rather dull and dreary evening last week. Sharaz and Sooraj our php programmers at Karmakerala, Vinish our designer and I made a quick plan, to go to Fort Kochi.
Sharaz has his roots there; he had spent his childhood there and has had his schooling there. So we thought we’d spend a lazy evening there, by the backwaters or at the beach.
It was a half an hour ride to Fort Kochi, on our bikes. We had no plan, no agenda for the trip.
All through the way I kept bugging Sharaz to stop to have a cup of tea, from some Thattukada, for these wayside eateries always caught my fancy. The tea that they’d brew, given in glasses than in use-and-throw plastic cups, always appealed to me. But my plans to have a cup of tea didn’t materialize.
On the way, at least at a couple of places, we were asked to stop by ‘vigilant’ cops, who wanted us to breathe into their breath analysers, to make sure we are not drunk.
At last, we reached there. It was almost dark.
As soon as we alighted and parked our motorcycles, my thought, as usual was about having a cup of tea. God seemed to have answered my wish; there comes a guy selling tea from his cycle. I inquired if it was the tea-bag one, which I usually won’t like. He nodded in the affirmative; but there was no other go. We looked all around, no tea-shop. We decided to be his customers. But for the first time, I liked the taste of tea made with tea-bags. In fact, such tea supplied on the trains had made me a sworn enemy of tea-bags.
I did say it aloud that the tea was good. As we finished drinking tea, the vendor showed us a bag tied to the back of his cycle and asked us to put the cups there so that it’s not strewn around. Sharaz and Vinish were impressed with the civic-sense that the guy displayed.
“Hope people do this everywhere”
… exclaimed Sooraj. We moved ahead. There were some attempts to take some photographs, but things didn’t go well. Sharaz meanwhile explained that there are shops from where we could buy fish, which they would cook for us on the spot. I suggested trying it out if it was OK with others. Everyone seemed to agree. Vinish, who had given up eating meat and fish since a few years, didn’t have an opinion, though he enjoyed it all.
We went to the nearby shop. There were fishes of all sizes and with names that were rather unfamiliar to Sooraj (who hails from Kasargode) and me (I hail from Thiruvananthapuram district). Sharaz was for us the ‘expert’. We made a choice after ascertaining the prices.
It was a fish that weighted around 1.2 kilogrammes.
A young chap, representing a wayside restaurant, had already approached us, saying that they’d get it prepared for us. We asked him the rates; he said Rs.120 per Kg for getting it fried. So the fish we bought cost us Rs. 210 and another 120 would have to be shelled out for getting it cooked. The young chap assured us that it will take 15 to 20 minutes. We moved ahead, following the young fellow. He led us, to a wayside restaurant. We had plans to buy some rice or chapathis and some vegetarian dish for Vinish. Sharaz told us that it could be a bit more expensive.
The wayside eatery, which was situated among some such other eateries, seemed good for spending an evening. We handed over the fish and got seated.
And then began the wait, which seemed to go on and on. The guy who had led us to the shop has vanished, the others who were there- to serve, to cook etc. – seemed to be bent on making us wait. All that we had to depend on to pass time was our conversation, which of course was always one of our favourite pastimes and the menu-cards, which simply shocked us beyond all imagination. Vegetable dishes, available at costs varying from 25 rupees to 50 or 60 have their prices starting at Rs.200. A plate of beef-fry, which would cost around 50 rupees at a hotel in Ernakulam, would cost us Rs. 300. We could see no justification, except that the tourists who visit Fort Kochi would have no other go but to buy food at this price.
We were concerned that there were no local bodies or government agencies to make sure these hotel people don’t fleece local day trippers like us.
We too were rendered hapless and helpless. Kochi’s own mosquitoes were buzzing, the enthusiasm to talk was yielding to hunger and our desire to have some ‘fresh’ fish and food and it was getting a bit late too. After an hour’s wait, we were told that we’d get it in five minutes. The fish came; we had ordered two plates of rice and some chapathis. Vinish was against the idea of spending Rs. 200 for a vegetable dish which we usually have at Rs. 40 or 50. We knew he was right.
So, it was ‘Get, set go!’. The wait seemed fruitful, the fish was tasty. We had our fill, relishing the taste of the fish along with the rice. Though there were delays in between in serving the food, the bill was delivered, in true ‘Kerala style’, with no delay at all. We shelled out the money and walked out of the eatery.
The walk back to where we had parked our motorbikes was rather pleasant. The streets gave us the feel that we were somewhere far away from Kerala. Sharaz wanted us to take a snap of his against a big, colonial styled bungalow saying, he’d publish the photograph with the caption…
“When I’m sad, I go to Europe”
We took the snaps. Then there was a Benz parked nearby and Vinish wanted to be photographed with it.
And then, it was the ride back. Sharaz showed us his ancestral house, invited us to pay a visit to his grandma. But we were late and put that off for some other day. Then he showed us the school where he, his father and grandfather had studied. We made fun of him, saying,
“So, this is a school that’s historically important”.
He smiled his usual friendly smile and then we set off, on our trip back.
Though the prices were a bit too high and something had to be done from the side of the authorities, we felt, we decided that we have to visit the place once again, without much delay and maybe with more of our friends.
As I am typing out this piece, we do have plans to pay a visit to Fort Kochi again, today or tomorrow…Hope it works out…