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Kozihikode (Calicut)

Taking the Train from Thrissur to Calicut

From Thrissur we booked a first class ticket to Kozihikode, also known as Calicut. The first class compartment, which we had to ourselves, was nice and clean but decidedly chilly so we spent a lot of the journey by the doors taking in the warm air and the views.

In this last photo Henry is ignoring the laws of the Indian railway and my sensible Health and Safety advice and leaning backwards out of the moving train!
A street near the railway station.

The hotel we had booked looked promising and we were shown to our rather nice room and tried to get onto the wifi network having been deprived for so long in Thrissur. The hotel staff seemed surprised that we were expecting them to have wifi, even though it is mentioned 3 times on their website. They offered us a small discount and said it would be installed tomorrow (we’ve heard that before!) so we headed off into the evening to find somewhere else.

We stayed the first night out of town and then moved to the Sea Queen hotel on the town’s promenade. It was right on the coast and undergoing major renovations but we had an enormous room at a fair price with hot water. We did not find anywhere reasonable to stay with wifi in Kozihikode.

View from the Sea Queen’s rooftop restaurant.

One evening we were out for one of our walks along the promenade, marvelling how, once again, at about 8pm all the women disappear completely.  The area was quite full of families in the daytime but come the evening I was the only female in the whole area. Walking past a school it seemed unusually busy when all of a sudden a sort of riot broke out! We got out of the action pretty quickly, crossing the road and moving about 100 meters away. The rest of the crowd of several hundred surged forward to get a look at what was going on, which was a man with a big stick chasing several other men.  We found out that the school was used as a venue for a party and that these men were trying to get in without paying. The man with the stick was a sort of bouncer.  After about 10 minutes the police showed up. This sort of situation in the UK would be met with riot vans and dozens of officers but here just 2 policemen, armed with short bamboo sticks, got out, shooed away the spectators a few feet to let the traffic pass and then got back in their car and went.  The party resumed a few minutes later and those who could afford to pay the R200 went back to the party.  We asked about the party and ascertained that it was very popular, happened once every few weeks and involved men listening to some music. There were no women, there was no drinking and no dancing at all (and it was not a gay club.) it seemed a high price to pay for that sort of a party that ended at 10pm and we did not try and get in.

We stayed long enough for Henry to order some contact lenses and made a couple of trips into town. On one of these trips I was taking some photos of a temple and a man came up to invite us inside to look around. I jumped at the chance and as we followed him inside the first thing he told us was that he was an artist and he wanted to draw Henry. We gave him the only piece of paper we had which was a post-it note…

The artist explained some of the gods we saw depicted in broken English and we visited some of the mini temples and he introduced us to one of the temple priests who told us about a wedding he had presided over the day before. We sat talking to the priest and our guide inside one of the main mini temples until an angry man came and told off our guide for letting us in. Usually non-Hindus are not allowed inside temples which is why we had gone in so readily at the start. The angry man was not satisfied with our guide’s attempt at smoothing over the situation and we were seen off the premises.

View from the top of a mall where Henry bought two plain white t-shirts to replace the one that had already been disposed off for being too stained.  This may seem like a boring fact but we have been looking for a plain t-shirt since arriving in India, only to find many with bright logos and patterns and nothing at all plain. Plain, we are told, is “very out of fashions”.

The Circus in Calicut

Along the promenade from us was a permanent circus and, as I don’t think I’ve ever been to a circus before, we paid our R100 (80p) for the best seats in the house and settled in to watch what can only be described as one of the most uninspiring performances I have ever seen.  The best thing we saw was three men on motorbikes who went into a spherical shaped metal ball and whizzed around narrowly missing each other all the while. The rest of the show was almost painful to watch. All of the performers, without exception, looked thoroughly bored the whole time and the animals (with the exception of the dogs) looked sad. In fact, it was the treatment of the animals that made us leave after only a third of the show. There was an elephant who had to stand up, sit down, lie down etc and the decider was a horse who had his head strapped so it could not be lifted who had to gallop around while a girl jumped on and off of him. The only other remarkable thing about the circus was the amount of female skin we saw – more than anywhere else we had seen so far – I suspect this was one of the secrets to the continuation of the circus; it was certainly not the skills or showmanship of the performers.

 Calicut, 17th – 21st December 2011

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