Friday, January 29, 2010

Cochin Carnival

Here is something that happens to women after marriage - no amount of time spent at their home is ever enough!

No matter how boring or uneventful your home seemed before marriage, post marriage, you feel like it is the comfiest cradle in the entire world. Your body develops a magnetic impulse to bounce back to your roots at every chance you get. It isn't necessarily because you aren't happy with your new surroundings. It might be the best of metros or even the costliest of suburbs. But the longing for your home remains unquenched...

I have an insane urge to go back to my home every time a holiday comes up. Maybe its the pleasure of reigning like a queen, pampered by my dad and ordering around my mum that is the cause of this desire. Yes, my folks do get senti about my staying away and i dutifully take full advantage of it. Surprisingly enough, your parents do your bidding uncomplainingly because, "after all she is staying away, lets humour her while she is here". Mind you these are pleasures i never knew while i was staying with them before marriage.

Its not just your home that you miss. Even your home town, no matter how dead a place it was, eventually develops a magical charm. For instance, these days i long for the lush green canopy of my state. It is utterly inconsequential that i grew up in Kochi, seeing very little of this greenery while i was there. You start developing romantic notions about the long days of monsoon rains, which earlier used to be a pain. Even a bite of the local savala bajji and parippu vada seem divine treats.

I had been waiting the whole year for New years to go home. Its not that we don't visit frequently, but this time we had planned a relatively longer stay - 4 days! Yeah it is sad, but most of our visits are over the weekends lasting only 2 days tops. Anything more than that is a luxury we don't afford (thanks to the psychotic boss of my better half). I had vowed to make the best of these few days at home and enjoy every bit of it. More importantly, i had another mission in mind - to introduce my better half, to the New Year revelries at Kochi. Being raised outside Kerala, he hasn't had the pleasure of seeing any massive celebrations at Xmas or New Years, except the church rituals.

We started with the streets, loitering around aimlessly on New Years eve soaking in the sights and sounds of a crowded Fort Kochi that was all dolled up to welcome 2010. If you didn't know, Fort Kochi is at its best during New Years. It is the best time to feel the spirit of the place. It appears as if the whole town is out to party. Bunches of families walking around, kids swinging in the park, ladies doing last minute cake shopping at the bakeries, foreigners clicking pics, couples enjoying dinners at the wayside restros, colonial-mansions-turned-hotels bathed in light, people crowding in at the beach to watch the grand finale of burning the Santa as the clock strikes 12 ushering in a new year and the youth dancing away on roadside stalls - the town was oozing with merriment. It is the only time of the year when you get to see so many people on the streets in the middle of the night in this part of the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed showing around my husband the rows of houses decked up with lights, the humongous Xmas tree at the Velli ground, the entire stretch of 50 feet road shining in silver hangouts studded with stars on either side, the Santas lined up at every junction and the Bascillica glowing with rows of snowy stars. Maybe its just my fancy, maybe not every one feels the same, but for me this little laid back town, during this season of the year is a blissful dream. I cant explain what a boost it gives my spirits to be just a part of the crowd, to be in the city i love so much with the love of my life.

Watching the carnival on Jan 1st is almost like a ritual in the family. I remember going for it ever since i was a kid hanging on my dads shoulders. I was eager to show my hubby dearest the crowd and the madness that is the Cochin Carnival. The Carnival flags off days ahead, festivities and revelries engulf the town with a slew of cultural programs and competitions. It seems the Cochin Carnival originated as a beach festival in 1984, but some do trace back its origins to the Portuguese during colonial days. On Jan 1st, everything culminates to a grand parade that rolls out on the street pulling in thousands of spectators from all over. The rally starts at 3 pm from the Velli ground with an assortment of local art forms, youth in drag and tableaus showcasing socio-political issues.

There are years when this annual rally offers variety and then there are years when it offers nothing but vulgarity. I say vulgarity, because there have been times when the only thing you get to see are men engaged in their fancy of dressing up like women in revealing costumes. If done in moderation it is fun to watch, else it can make you sick because you end up watching hairy arms caressing fake boobs! Whatever said and done, i dont think there will be a Carnival where you cant see these men in drag. I believe this is so because in the guise of teasing women, men here do take a private pleasure in cross dressing. Nothing else can explain why year after year you see so many men engaged in this act so persistently and so shamelessly.

Whether the Carnival is good or bad, what always remains is the crowd. You have to see it to believe it. The entire place is swarmed by hoardes of people. Men, women, kids and oldies from all walks of life are out on the roads to watch the show irrespective of how good or bad it turns out to be. It is of course but natural that if not many, atleast some among them are not in their senses, drunk till their noses. Be warned of pickpockets and gropers. Look out for your own good. Police are doing a good job of locking up the causes of public nuisance but in a crowd of thousands you would better want to watch yourself than regret.

And for the record, this time everything was arranged in good taste. Amazing variety in themes, some of the tablueas leaving us in splits of laughter. My husband thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. And i think he finally gets the hang of the origins of the "Kochi- Achi" adage.