I was in Mumbai yesterday, and I have more business there next week, but as today is Prophet Mohammad’s birthday (called Milad-Un-Nabi in India) and tomorrow is Good Friday – both public holidays in India – so I headed down to Kerala for the long weekend.
The flight was supposed to take only 90 minutes, but it took over three hours including nearly an hour on the ground in Mumbai waiting for a take-off slot (Mumbai is getting to be such a busy airport since the introduction of budget airlines which have made it cheaper for Indians to travel by air) and about half an hour in a bumpy holding pattern over Kochi waiting for a storm to clear. It is not supposed to rain in Kerala in March, but at least the rain made it cool
It was dark by the time I got to Fort Cochin where I was to spend the night. The narrow streets of Fort Cochin are much like they were in the eighteenth century – except that most of the roads have a tarmac surface now. A few of its old buildings have been renovated and turned into heritage ‘boutique’ hotels or shops, but most are still fairly rundown.
Around the streets of Fort Cochin there are many large tamarind trees and other shade trees that look to be hundreds of years old – they add to the historic atmosphere but are also home to hundreds of noisy crows, which is why many of the restaurants have bird netting around their terraces (to prevent the crows from swooping into restaurants to grab food off diners’ plates).
After dinner I had a craving for a glass of wine, so I dropped into the Fishnet Bar – just down the street from the hotel where I was staying. (No, it was not a seedy place – nothing to do with fishnet stockings – it takes its name from the nearby Chinese fishing nets).
The bar was as dark as the streets outside. The ‘bar’ was nothing much more than a bare room with seven tables around which about 20 foreigners were sitting. Inside there was another even darker room full of Indians where there seemed to be some heavy drinking going on (and maybe gambling as well). In one corner there was a small bar – much like the type you see in people’s homes – and an old refrigerator.
I asked for a glass of wine which was listed on the drinks menu for 100 rupees (about US$2.50). A reasonable price I thought until I saw the barman measuring the wine using a 60 ml spirits measure.
The barman delivered the wine to me. It was exactly 60 ml - about an inch in the bottom of a champagne flute. The only other time I have been served such a small quantity of wine in a glass has been at banquets in China where the wine (usually the Great Wall red) is served more for making toasts than for drinking.
I had to order two glasses to satisfy my craving. Even then at 120 ml it was still less than what most restaurants or bars usually serve in a single glass (most places serve 150 – 250 ml when ordering wine by the glass).
I sipped my two glasses of wine slowly to make them last. I was certainly not going to get a hangover in this place.