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Porpoises For All Purposes

For the past few days I’ve been spending time sitting on my favorite rock by the Arabian Sea that I so love. One of the appeals of it are the porpoises that swim by in schools looking for food and entertainment on their way past our village. At least to me they seem to be porpoises rather than dolphins, but then again I am not an expert on marine life. So porpoises they are in this blog at least.  Cute little fellas in any case, these very intelligent creatures sometimes take notice of me and perform a few stunts like the classic fling above the surface with their fins flapping. The local fishermen respect these exquisite aquatic creatures as sacred which I must say I am glad for, as I would hate to worry about something happening to them. If they are accidentally caught in the fishermen’s nets they will be let loose along with prayers for their wellbeing.

The fishing traditions here on the Malabar coast go back thousands of years and my other source of entertainment is to watch the fishermen take their boats out to sea and pull their nets ashore, an activity I used to sometimes participate in a long time ago.  A scene reminiscent of this has most likely repeated itself here for millennia. The legends and mythology of the village go back to the dawn of history and they are still very much a part of people’s lives. Except for those who have turned towards the newer myths of Marxism and other “rationalist” movements that are common in this region. But that is whole different story, and will save it for another day.

One thought that often comes to my mind while perched on the rocks is how this coast must have seemed to Vasco da Gama and his men when it appeared in their sights for the first time.  The lush tropical nature of the place must have been a welcome respite from the months at sea as the fleet arrived in Kappad, near Calicut on 20 May 1498, which is not so far up the coast from here. At the time of their arrival the Arabs had already established trading rights with the local Zamorin and Vasco da Gama had a difficult time negotiating terms for the Portuguese. Okay, I will not turn this into a history lesson as you might as well go to Wikipedia for that. Fast forward >>> as you might guess he later returned with twenty warships and not in such a gentlemanly way pressed his rights of the Portuguese to be recognized in the region. Sound familiar? Have I heard this before? …After making several trips back and forth, strengthening the Portuguese hold on the coast, he eventually and somewhat anti-climatically died of Malaria in Kochi on Christmas Eve 1524.

St. Francis Church

His tomb can be found under the floor of the St. Francis church although his remains were later moved from here to Lisbon.

I read somewhere that the Monastery of the Hieronymites in Belém was erected in honor of his voyage to India. Why a monastery would be erected in the honor of a conquistador beats me, but I guess stranger things have happened.

I know, I was supposed to write about porpoises. I will return to them later.

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2 Responses to “Porpoises For All Purposes”

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