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School Sports and Cemeteries

People in Fort Cochin – Kerala, January 1999
This follows-on from Fort Cochin to where we had come and seen the Chinese fishing nets in operation. We looked around Fort Cochin and met a man who wanted to show us a presbytery.
After watching the swaying of the Chinese fishing nets we bought some postcards from a man who hangs about there precisely for that purpose. We asked him for directions to the post office for some stamps.
Through the better-off area of Cochin. Sunshine, flowers and walled houses. We came across a large church and Hilary went for a look inside. Standing outside, I could hear what sounded like a school sports day taking place on an area of green, or more precisely dirty yellow, adjacent.
Get those legs up now.
Sure enough, a school sports day was exactly what it was. Conducted in English. We arrived just in time for the old-boys 800 metres. ‘Come along the old boys, show us what you can do, get those legs up now; up, up, up, up!’ The female announcer encouraged the runners in shrill, bossy English. The boys ran in bare feet but otherwise unchanged from their everyday shirt and trousers or lungi. One of them duly won and was applauded; one or two gave up from cramp or exhaustion.
Next the junior boys 800 metres. ‘There&rsuo;s still time for the junior boys to participate. Junior boys please report to the starting line now. Come on you junior boys, here’s your chance to show what you can do for your school!’ And so on.
More churches
We wandered on. We came across another church, Catholic this time, which seemed to be all locked up but some workmen were using a side door so Hilary went in for a look around from there.
We were looking for the Dutch Cemetery, which the guidebook told us contained the graves of Dutch settlers from way back. Often, these graveyards can be quite evocative of a time we mostly only read about in abridged form.
By following the small-scale map we had we came to a crossroads with what looked like a cemetery entrance on it. It turned out to be a presbytery. As usual, when you stop to look at something in India, a man comes by and says: &lssquo;Come and take a look. See the gardens and the birds!’
The birds in the garden were, as we suspected, in cages, including a very miserable-looking eagle in terribly cramped conditions, who was sharing its cage with a crow that had got in there somehow and couldn’t find its way out.It seemed to be just as distressed as the eagle.
Pepper plants
The man showed us pepper, lemon and guava – the first time we had seen pepper growing and we were surprised to find it was an ivy-like climbing weed.
The story continues with Palm Toddy.


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