We arrive in Cochin to find a home for a night in a beautiful bungalow that is owned by Intrepid the company we are travelling with. The house is open and cool, but fans and air conditioning are also provided in the spacious tiled rooms we were shown too. I let out a little sigh of pleasure as I open the door to our room. Ah..this experience is just getting better, and I don’t really want to leave each new place I discover in the State of Kerala. Without a doubt this is my favourite part of India.
After a farmer’s lunch at the popular Dal Roti cafe, we have a few hours rest before heading out to our first theatre experience in India. It was an interesting walk through the Cochin fort and Steve remarked he was amazed at the number of churches in this area. The influence of the Portuguese is everywhere and the city is laid back and orderly and a far cry for the chaos of Chennai and Madurai.
We are here to enjoy a Kathkali performance. On the way we are caught up in a colourful procession, vending its way to the local church which will be packed to capacity later in the evening.
Kathkali is a classical Indian stylised dance that originated in Kerala. It is famous for its body movements, facial expressions and elaborate costumes that are accompanied by drums and the beating of cymbols. As we walk in, we find the actors sprawled on the stage having their make up put on. The hall is packed with foreign travellers who walk up casually to the stage with the telephoto lenses to catch a piece of this action.
We have been given a written explanation of what the play is all about. It is a rather simple story of boy meets a girl who is married, makes unwanted advances and is eventually slain by her adoring husband.
Later, we are given a detailed explanation of what each of the hand gestures mean and one of the actors gives us a demonstration of the eye movements. He can roll his eye balls to every part of his eye socket….it is certainly unnatural, looks strange and makes me feel uncomfortable and amazed at the same time. The show proper finally starts and lasts about an hour. It is the most slow moving theatre I have ever seen and this is just a segment of what would normally be a 6 hour performance. Other plays are known to go on for up to 12 hours and the die hard traditionalists in a village would probably be the only audience who could sit through all of that.
Chand, our guide meets us after the show and we walk to the restaurant we have dinner in. It has been an interesting introduction to Cochin.
Ammu said that human beings were creatures of habit, and it was amazing the kind of things one could get used to. The God of Small Things