When you arrive in India the most difficult thing to accept is
that their life and standards are not the same as in Britain with
dirt, dust and poverty visible all around.
Waste paper bins are virtually non-existent, and many
people still wash their clothes on stones by the water’s edge.
The people are absolutely charming and, while English might
be spoken in the major cities, their knowledge of the language
is much more limited in the countryside.
It is only when you have to request the same thing several
times, that you realise that while they nod and smile at
whatever you ask, they have not actually understood you.
Our trip around Kerala was concentrated on the middle
of the State, starting in Cochin. Located here are both St.
Francis, the oldest European church in the Indian subcontinent,
and the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth.
Situated on the banks of the Arabian Sea, all kinds of fish are
caught fresh here with the use of picturesque Chinese fishing
nets. I stayed at the newly opened boutique hotel, Koder House,
in the historic part of Fort Cochin, which is owned by Vicky
Raj, a member of Lodge Vembanad No. 319. The building
was originally the home of Samuel Koder, who introduced
Freemasonry to Cochin by setting up Lodge Cochin.
A four-hour drive on very windy roads took us to Munnar,
high in the mountains, 1,600m above sea level. The area
is covered in tea plantations, although we also saw various
spice and fruit plants growing along the route. Being high
up, the scenery is particularly spectacular, and is primarily
a walker’s paradise.
The Eravikulam National Park was unfortunately closed
while we were there as it was the breeding season for the
endangered Nilgiri Thar mountain goat. However, we were
able to look around a private club, used by the plantation
managers, which echoed back to the days of the British Empire.
Its interior walls, made from locally grown teak wood,
had trophy heads of stuffed animals that had been shot, lining
the walls. The grounds include a rather unchallenging ninehole
golf course, which the manager rather grudgingly said
could be used by visitors.
The tea plantations in the area were owned by the Scots.
Lodge Heather No. 928, which was affiliated to the Grand
Lodge of Scotland, was established here in 1902, closing in 1983
when all its members returned home. Its premises still stand,
locked up, as the locals consider the building rather spooky.
There is also a stone, laid in March 1910 with Masonic
honours, on the wall of Christ Church, as the Masons had
donated money towards the building and its furniture.
A spectacular display of the
harvest festival boat race
Web site created by Mark Griffin