Kerala Field Notes: painting, rupees, museum, specs, wedding etc

The doors open, you don’t know where you might go, so you go

An omnibus round-up for lousy photos of logistical considerations, various tasks and personal memories in Thrippunithura (Kochi), Kerala, India (wiki), late 2016 while staying at Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra hospital. Please read the related story and consider watching the “Healing Ramble, introduction” video for context on this series. 

In the neighbourhood

sherbet coloured houses in the neighbourhood 

I sought permission to go out of the house to explore the neighbourhood, and after a while, she relented, warning me of the intense heat. I made a few oil pastel paintings of neighbouring houses which were all “sherbet coloured“ with lime greens, tangerine oranges and lavender which I found delightful.

i stepped out to make oil pastel painting and quickly made pals / note my awsum disposable clothes 

However, as soon as I would sit down with my art supplies, the neighbourhood boys and men would gather around to see what I was doing, ask me dozens of questions, and look on intently at everything I was doing.

another sherbet-coloured house
another sherbet-coloured house
another sherbet-coloured house

Excursions, minor

I also took two or three small excursions: the first on Remembrance (11/11) Day to a cenotaph in the Fort area of Kochi (Cochin). The cenotaph has a lot of history left over from the British colonial. As well as the Portuguese  and what not.

made a poppy, went to a cenotaph for Remembrance day 

The famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gamma had been buried in the church there, which was later repurposed from a Catholic Portuguese church to a Dutch Protestant church, later when the British came, augmented with a cenotaph to commemorate the end of the “great” War, as well as various armouries, training grounds and so on.

Remembrance Day is important event for me each year and I wanted to make sure to make some art to show respect for the soldiers and other victims of war including resistors, civilians and families. In this case, including a handmade poppy, a podcast inside the church – read some poetry and stream of consciousness about peace (while tour groups tromped around), a video cast on Gandhi beach about respect (Chinese fishing nets in background), and a photo series  with a primitive analog Loma camera.

maybe you’ve seen before, but this is my Lomo Sardine can “spy” camera which i enjoyed so much on this wander 

{Note: made some of these India Lomo snap shots into postcards for sale} Then i did my “favourite thing” hanging out in a corner of a coffee shop writing letters and journals (hello) including extended “thank you” to the hospital in Thailand. While there, met 2 wonderful ladies from Mexico who enjoyed letters, postcards and scrapbooks (note: we still keep in touch! so wonderful).

i went to a train station and i made a painting with cheap watercolours and oil pastels – note: 6 Rps cup of tea used for water 

I also did a small ramble to a train station to watch trains roll by and did another drawing of the station.

Used a 6Rps cup of tea cup as watercolour water (with cheapo supplies). Such enjoyable.


6 rupees and the truth

Also rolled tuk-tuk to a museum sharing artifacts from the “Princely state“ era of India.

not the Taj Mahal, fewer folks, very pleasing – museum, check 

{Before India was “India”, it was a series of small vassal states with different kings and princes and so on}. That said, i am skipping the whole multi-centuries occupation of Brit Empire and the partition which caused such chaos. You will find better discourse of that topic elsewhere. 

evidence of museum visit, face in mask looking similar to my own

i was so tired these days, exhausted and dangerously depressed but stuck it out (thanks!) 

rolled tuk-tuk and as such took a snap
yeah rolling tuk-tuk, just like Thailand, took a snap 

{Worth noting that Kerala has people of all religious backgrounds including Hindu, Christian and Muslim co-existing (from what i could gather) peacefully. The area have been under colonial influence of the Portuguese, the Dutch and British, and also had a long relationship with Chinese and Jewish populations (yeah its varied and complicated – more riffs on this elsewhere).}

tourist looking at where Vasco’s bones once were

The church by the cenotaph was Catholic under Portuguese, Protestant under Dutch, Anglican under Brits, and now mostly a museum (i guess) the bones of Vasco Da Gamma *were* where the tour group is gathered. i sat on pews and recorded a riff about peace and hubris and ya know, my usual blah blah blah…

walk through all the doors and see the secrets behind… what’s the worst that can happen?

Finally, towards the end of my treatment cycle, I went into town looking for stationery, paper goods and the like (created a photo essay and video about these items – you should totally investigate). Also got a yellow shirt of crisp Indian linen.

yeah, i assembled so much ephemera items / there’s a whole photo “essay” of the whatnots – prob in a scrapbook by now, probably a post about the scrapbook, i’m not sure, maybe 
did some reading about India history as well as a book about Nehru (first PM of “modern” India)

Rupee Conunudrum

Shortly after i arrived, the government recalled all 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes at 6PM on a Friday night in an attempt to thwart money-launderers and counterfeiters, requiring a complicated procedure to exchange these notes which, could not be completed by foreigners (you needed a bank account or else the black market).

Collection: Currencies – India, Rupeethe whole money/ currency conundrum added a real element of interestingness to the trip! the common bills were “frozen” with minimal recourse for exchange causing troubles for honest folks while “designed” to thwart the launderers and counterfeiters 

I had withdrawn money to pay for my treatment, but now this money was suddenly worthless! The doctors helped exchange the money, but the payment was a difficult process as PayPal was/is not commonly accepted (#fraud?) and required late night phone calls, and various codes and an extended waiting period to ensure the doctors were paid. {Note: this began by relationship with Transferwise}.

the game of finding ATMs dispensing the new 2000Rps bills was like a country-wide scavenger hunt and could only get one at a time (yikes!)

Ended up having to withdraw the new 2000Rps notes, one at a time from a stocked ATM (requiring a taxi adventure to find) and each time incurring fees from bank in Canada and after a couple transactions, card locked. Did not have to resort to busking. 

my little pal (she has a Youtube channel now)

Meanwhile back the hospital, I particularly enjoyed the Doctors’ daughter coming home in the evenings and coming to greet “Uncle Dave” with a hug and a gap tooth smile (adorable short haircut and pierced ears).

Obligatory Indian Wedding

When i stepped out to make a painting one time, I was invited to be a guest at a wedding, and while the weddings extend several days, I just went for a short period of time to eat some food with the families served on banana leaves. The doctor was concerned because the Ayurveda diet is very specific and I was advised not to eat too much or have particularly spicy items. I was introduced to many ladies, and made friends with a young engineering student named Arya (hi!) with whom I exchange messages as penpals. The women were all lovely in their saree dresses and jewelry. The dudes in fancy jeans and preening hair. {no evidence of this experience}

old cars and chill dogs – check


Sundries, enjoy the usual days

Mr. Mohammed also took me for a cool beverage one afternoon in which club soda and lime juice mixed together in stainless steel tumblers for a refreshing drink.

Mr Mohammed and I went for tasty bevvie one time (you can see my eyes start to spark up again) 

Due to fainting episodes, I had broke a couple of pairs of glasses, so while in India, I had two new pair of glasses made.

Price was certainly reasonable for my extremely complicated and usually expensive prescription, however they were not the best engineered lenses I’ve ever had. Still, made for a decent stopgap measure. Of course the guys asked me possibly 300 questions in our short time together.

guys at the glasses shop / lots of questions all the time (and great shirts everywhere) 

Oh, I also went for a haircut one day, finding a ride on the back of a motorcycle as I walked along the road. There were not many foreigners in this area, in fact I didn’t see anyone else, so I stuck out and people were eager to ask me questions to find out what I was doing there.

this guy picked me up and took me for a haircut and we had a juice bevvie afterwards 

Continuing Elsewhere…

Afterwards, I went to the city at Chennai, and then to the intentional community/free-form/social experiment called Auroville. Dr. Hemesh had helped me make arrangements for some more extended train travel around India after my treatment (Darjeeling, Amma etc.), I made it as far as Auroville in Tamil Nadu but the plan was interrupted by the unexpected death of my beloved Mother requiring a rapid exit from India. (i have notes, maybe i’ll share…)

plans for rambling train adventures were thwarted by the worst news… instead of Darjeeling, ended up in Logan (again)

Next up: the now not so secret review of posted of the wonderful clinic (nothing new but another context of the same experience) and maybe a few field notes from Auroville &/or maybe the log of leaving India to the toughest month of my life. We’ll see what comes…