The highlight of our one day stopover at Kozhikode is the long awaited reunion of Ruchi and her longtime friend from her days in the US, Megha Menon
After a day's travel and a night of restful sleep, we start our day with a heavy breakfast. While I eat omlettes, Riyaz, Kyela and Ruchi eat puttus, a cylindrical form of rice cakes. This particular variant has interleaving segments of rice and wheat separated by thin discs of grated coconut. Kyela is fascinated with the 'puttu patram', the cooking vessel used to make these rice cakes, and decides that she'd like to own one of those.
We head out a few hours later, and lunch at an upscale restaurant - our first on this trip - called Ben Hur, of all things. We eat at a buffet, and I am delighted to see a selection of salads on offer. The chicken and fruit salads are splendid, and I discover the pleasures of eating pickled beef. I am also surprised to find grilled quail on offer, but not quite impressed with its taste.
Talking to Megha is an instruction in Keralite culinary traditions and customs. She corrects my error from an earlier post, and I learn that the red tinted water we've been drinking is boiled not in tulsi but in a varied selection of herbs. Our lunch talk covers the intricacies of cooking sambhar, and the differences between aviyal and stew (a factoid I have shamefully forgotten!).
After lunch, we walk over to the Cross Church, a tiny shrine that houses a fairly standard cross and a rather unusual sivalingam bearing a cross etched on one of its faces. The shrine is frequented by both Christians and Hindus, who light two candles each in front of the rock. I am fascinated by this discovery, and recall other unique cultural traits I've observed here, such seeing women wearing a headscarf and a saree together. These are things that could only have happened in Kerala, a land of religious diversity with non Hindu communities in substantial numbers, and could represent the beginning of a merging of theologies.
We visit the Church of South India, stroll through Mananchira square (a park that was once the courtyard of the Zamorin monarchy) and make our way back home, picking up a truckload of banana chips on the way. We deposit our luggage at home and take the children out to the beach. Ishaan and his younger brother, Vihaan, are wonderful, boisterous boys. Ishaan clambers on to my lap, and plays Temple Run. Vihaan peers over both our shoulders, and responds in kind to my playful grunts and mock grapple-tickles. We spend our last evening in Kerala watching white surf bound towards us in ever widening lines before crashing a few feet short of us.
We dine at home and collectively theorize over Keralite culinary nomenclature. We learn from Megha that 'appam' means snacks or eatable, and that 'iddi' means 'applying force', 'neer' means 'thin' and 'unni' means 'small'. Armed with this insight, we theorize that the names for most rice cakes here is based on the means of preparation.
This is my final post in this travelogue as Ruchi and I conclude our North Kerala campaign. Riyaz Shaikh and Kyela Crow are heading for Kochi, from where they will take their campaign southwards. Backpacking with them has been an absolute delight and we wish them happy travelling. Bon voyage, mes amis and godspeed!