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The Dutch Cemetery and the Synagogue

Crumbling Cemetery, Muslim Traders, Cochin Jewish Heritage
This follows-on from Palm Toddy, where we bought a bottle of palm wine on our way to find the Dutch Cemetery.
Sad Neglect at the Cemetery
After a further walk and a few askings for directions we found the Dutch Cemetery. There was a sign outside in English and Malayalam, oddly not in Dutch, telling us what is was.
Inside was really sad. Broken tombstones, no inscriptions still legible, and the whole place covered with a mass of pink-flowered convolvulus. What a shame.
A Most Un-Indian Post Office
We went to have some lunch in a restaurant we’d spotted earlier,passing on the way the post office we’d be unable to find earlier. A most un-Indian post office, I just walked up to the counter and bought some stamps, no fuss, no forms to fill in, the stamps of the right denomination and complete with glue on the back. Nice city, Cochin.
Lunch was Chinese chop-suey and Indian crab and vegetable, and the restaurant, outside under a canopy with fans whirling in the ceiling, was hot, really hot.
To the Synagogue
Back out in the midday sun, we decided to catch a rickshaw to the Jewish Synagogue, located in the region of Cochin known as Jew Town.
It was closed for lunch so we took a look in some shops and bought Hilary two dresses for 850 rupees (£15), one silk one cotton. Most of the traders in this are are Muslim. Muslim traders are notably more pushy and keener to do a deal than the Hindu and Christian ones; more sense of what we might want too. We tried a Hindu-run shop and it was very different, with a small slender man in large glasses sewing away at a machine in the corner and a man in a lunghi trying to sell Hilary trousers that were either too small or white when she’d asked for coloured. No business there.
The synagogue reopened and we got there at the same time as a party of American Christians on a tour. They were being so loud and insensitive that we waited outside until they had finished.
Joseph the Pastor
Also waiting outside for them was their Indian guide, a pastor named Joseph. He had visited the States as a guest of this group and they ‘help’ his church as part of their bit for the Third World. He was ashamed of India’s grottiness, the unpainted walls at the boat terminal, the litter. It was hard to know what to say, really.
The Synagogue
The American group came out and we went it. It was a bit hard to fathom it all, not knowing much about Judaism. The floor tiles were worth a fortune – we thought they might be hand-painted Delft, what with the Dutch connection, but they turned out to be Chinese. It also looked like someone at some time had had a passion for lamps, as a great number in various shapes and sizes hung from the ceiling. Write-up on the synagogue and pic here.
There didn’t seem to be any Jews around. Cochin is said to have only 50 or so Jews left and maybe they only come on Saturdays, when the synagogue is closed to the public. A little picture gallery gave us a history of the Jews in Cochin, they go back a long way to BC days and there are still 5,000 Jews in India, so it said, though only 50 or so in Cochin.
There is a Dutch Palace in this part of Cochin but we couldn’t find it and it was still very hot outside, so we decided to retrace our ferry journey back to Ernakulam, where our friendly bullying host at the hotel had told us there was an elephant festival at 5pm.
The story continues with The Elephant Festival, when I write it.


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