Sunday, 13 September 2009

Mostly About Kottayam

All guidebooks and travel websites are unanimous in their opinion that there is nothing to see in Kottayam. But Lonely Planet has a passage which caught my fancy:
Kottayam is a bookish town: the first Malayalam-language printing press was established here in 1820 and it was the first district in India to achieve 100% literacy. Today it’s home to the newspaper Malayala Manorama (with the second-largest circulation in India) and is the headquarters of DC Books, Kerala’s excellent bookshop chain.
A bookish town! What a quaint attribute for a town to possess! So, on a whim, I checked out of my hotel in Alleppey and caught the early morning ferry (Rs. 10, 2.5 hours, lovely scenery) to Kottayam.

The first person I met upon landing in Kottayam was a paediatrician, and you can’t be a paediatrician without being bookish. He gave me a lift to the centre of town; on the way he told me about Dutch farming techniques, and who else but a bookish person would know about things like Dutch farming techniques?

For over two hours, I loafed around the arterial streets of Kottayam looking for evidence of its bookishness, and I was not disappointed. The public buildings look bookish, the Jerusalem Marthoma Church is the most bookish-looking church I have ever seen, and the bookshops practically ooze bookishness. This being a Sunday, the DC Heritage Bookshop was closed, but the bookish vibes emanating from its venerable red-brick façade well-nigh overpowered me. The schools were likewise closed, but there were no children playing on the streets; no doubt their bookish parents kept them hard at work at their textbooks, moulding them into bookish little replicas of themselves.

At the restaurant where I had lunch, a family of four sat at a corner table. Not to be foiled by the lack of reading matter inside the restaurant, they were poring over the menu, brows knit in concentration. “Ki pagoler moto bookish,” I muttered to myself, and polished off my pazhampori.

In this way, for over two hours did I tramp the streets of Kottayam, soaking up its bookishness. When I tired of this (for there are limits to how long I can amuse myself thus), I returned by bus to Alleppey, making a longish detour to pack in a spot of birdwatching at the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. But now I must leave you, else I shall miss the night train to Madurai.

I am afraid this has not been a very sane post. But then, this has not been a very sane day.


Priyanka said...

Hahaha. Brilliant, brilliant.

Karthy said...

You're starting to make the Lonely Planet sound like the Hitchhikers...

Rick said...

What about the backwaters in Alleppy?
Its supposed to be exotic, don't tell me you skipped it altogether!

Shrabasti Banerjee said...