In February 1996, I was in Cochin [now Kochi] with our club The Mysore Gymkhana for a reputed cricket tournament. It was my second visit to that port city on the west coast. Shortly before my departure I happened to visit an old classmate's old parents just to inquire their welfare. When I casually mentioned about my visit to Cochin the coming week, they were happy because they saw a chance for me to meet their son-in-law who was posted there in the Air Force which has a base in Cochin. His two small kids and wife were with him. I had met him once before when he had come to his parents-in-law's house here. So I had some acquaintance too.
My friend's mother and her daughter asked me if I could carry with me some garments for the little kids in Cochin. I agreed and collected the bag before my departure. I have always grabbed every opportunity to tour around the city where I visit and this was one such to visit a new place. I could not do so on my first visit.
I will just mention, in passing, two important historical places where I also went, before I come to the Ship.
One was the St.Francis Church, [Wiki-link-click] which is the oldest in India, built by the Portuguese in 1505. Later, this was where Vascoda Gama's [the famous Portuguese explorer] body was buried before being shifted 14 years after. In fact, we played a match right in front of it, in the field! We did so on our 1994 visit also.
Image from "Colours of India".
The other historic place was the Jewish Synagogue [Wiki-link-click]. I had known the word Synagogue from my stamp collection - in 1968, India had issued a postage stamp on this landmark structure. But did not know anything more, until I actually saw!
20 p. Postage Stamp, to commemorate 400 years.
From the street, one will miss the Synagogue because it seems to like the other structure around, but when we enter the hall, we are transformed. Such a beautiful little hall, peaceful, colourful, decorated with Chinese floor tiles and Belgian glass chandeliers, etc. You will see a glimpse of it in the Wiki link provided above.
[Image from "Keralaeverything"]
I had taken our team manager, Mr.Narayan who was also my neighbour at that time. I was not carrying the film camera for tours. So no images of my own. There was just enough time for us to visit here in between the two matches. In the evening, I was to meet the friend at the Air Force base.
Directions to reach the Air Force base was given by him when I rang up from the public telephone booth and Mr. Narayan was with me again, for company. The bus had a stop at the gate and we alighted after inquiry of the proper spot. We used intercom to contact him to announce our arrival at the gate, where he came all the way to receive and identify us as per security protocol. It was a long way down in the campus, almost a mile to his quarters. We walked.
My friend's parents had already informed them about my going there. Some formal pleasantries, tea and some snacks followed. His wife was glad to see me after many years and the kids were very happy to get a bagful of "new" clothes from Mysore. After sometime, he took us to show his work area close by. He was in charge of a helicopter. He took us into its cabin and showed us tens of indicators and meters and the dashboard seemed to be all over the cabin! Since he was the Captain, no further permission was required to take us in.
He then mentioned about a ship that was docked very close by and that we could visit if we had time, which we actually had, plus our enthusiasm to see new things. After bidding goodbye, we reached the indicated place by a short trip by bus.
At the port's entry, we had to buy tickets to enter the ship. And we were one of the last few that were allowed in because it was already evening and their closing hour was closing in! We were lucky to have made it.
The name of this ship was Doulos. [Wiki-link-click]. It was sailing the world selling books and docking at scheduled destinations on its journey. We saw a huge and beautiful white ship. I was elated that I was entering it. Titanic was not that familiar to me at that time, so I thought this was really very huge and this was built in 1914, two years after the Titanic! I remembered my old friend Srinivas who once had told me that his father had seen a bus in America as long as "from here to there" [showing a spot two streets far away!]. It was a very young age then. I was now actually seeing something as big.... 420 feet long.
[Screenshot image from Wiki]
Visitors were given this information brochure.
She was a freighter serving the Atlantic and during World War II she served with the United States Coast Guard.
Myself and Narayan were on board the World's largest floating library and the world's oldest ship still sailing. A neatly dressed staff in white, welcomed us in. We were thrilled no end. Thousands of books on shelves and hundreds of people looking for their choices! It was an amazing sight. We stood for a moment, awe-struck.
I started looking for anything that would interest my purchase as the docked ship kept swaying a little all the while in the evening tide. I did end up buying a few books for my little kid. Books were slightly pricey but when we read the brochure and the other information displayed on the ship, about the number of crew traveling, the cost of sailing, maintenance of the ship and things like that, we did not mind. I observed that there was a large collection of Missionary books also, which is one of the intentions of the sailing library.
When I remember Cochin, I the first thing that comes to mind is the Doulos and then the Synagogue because we could progress no further than the two matches we got to play. Thanks to the bag of clothes, it took me to Doulos!