Many foreigners live in Kochi, and most of them love this city as much as their motherland. What do they love abut Kochi? And what, according to them, are its drawbacks?
Bruce Shuler, Mississippi
Bruce Shuler is back home from office, and holds a can of beer as he packs his belongings in his 12-floor flat at Ivory Heights in Panampilly Nagar. The American from Mississippi, who has been the head of Delphi in Kochi for two years, has been transferred to Shanghai and is getting ready to move there with his family. He has been with Delphi for 34 long years, something that may come as a surprise to today's generation. Shuler had worked in China earlier for seven years and South Korea for five years before moving to Kochi. It was in the latter country that he met wife Mia. The couple has a son, Ethan, who studied at The Indian Public School in Kakkanad. Ethan held the second rank in class seven, and first rank in class nine. He will join class nine in Shanghai.
As we click his photographs, Shuler comments that Ethan is already taller than him. This family says it cannot forget Kochi, and will be back to take houseboat rides in the backwaters.
Pros Kochi is truly God's own country. It is the people who make one land different from another. In Kochi, everyone was friendly; it is a warm and inviting city. The farewell message sent by Ethan's maths tuition teacher Baiju almost brought tears to our eyes. The education system here is excellent. We just love the backwaters and the black pearl spot. Shuler says he used to eat rice and fish curry with his hands in the office canteen.
There are traffic snarls but that is the case in all big cities. There are no mosquitoes up here in the 12 floor; mosquitoes are there in Mississippi too. One big drawback is that there are no restaurants in Kochi that serve exotic food, except in the big hotels. There are no Mexican, Japanese or Italian restaurants. And when we throw a party, the guests show up at least an hour late. That is Indian standard time!
Jennifer Kumar, Rochester
You know at one glance that this white woman is married to a Malayali. She wears a small gold chain on her neck. The name tag hanging from her neck says "Jennifer Kumar." Jennifer is from Rochester near New York in America. She is the managing director of a company operating from Infopark, called Authentic Journeys. The company teaches cultural nuances and etiquette to foreigners from America, Europe, Canada and Australia coming here to meet onsite techies, and Indians going to those countries for offsite work. It is only four years since Jennifer has been here but she is more like a naturalised resident of Pullepadi. She loves kanji and payar (rice gruel and lentils) and knows how to cook rice and sambar. She also loves to eat rice and fish curry from the small tea shops. You cannot get anything negative out of her about Kochi's roads and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes don't touch her; apparently, they prefer hubby Krishna (she doesn't want to reveal more details about him.)
Pros Jennifer loves the weather here, especially the monsoons. Relatives and local people are quite friendly, she says. Cons You just cannot drive in Kochi. You never know who will come before your vehicle from which direction, or who will suddenly swerve into your path. The Internet speeds here are pathetic. 3G is in name only; wi-fi speeds are also not much to write home about. But the trash problem is horrible. You will find garbage everywhere. If only they could fix this!
Isabella Pinna, Sardinia
Isabella Pinna has been in Kochi for more than six months now but she is yet to take a boat ride in the backwaters. She doesn't think much of the much-talked about beauty of Kochi's backwaters. There is a reason: Isabella comes from Sardinia, Italy's second biggest island. Kochi's waterfront pales in front of Sardinia's beauty. She hasn't tried the rice and fish curry here either, because she is allergic to spices and chillies. So how does she survive here? Isabella buys pasta and cooks it herself. She also goes to restaurants serving good pizza but avoids capsicum and pepper toppings. She also takes the local transport buses. Isabella is an assistant professor for French and Italian at Rajagiri Centre for Business Studies and a member of the office dealing with European universities. Sardinia is also known for the longevity of its people. A hundred years is not a big deal there. Ask me my age, she says, and replies without batting an eyelid, "37!" Pros Isabella loves Fort Kochi and walking around looking at the Portuguese sculptures there. The Biennale here was a wonder. She also loves the Pizza Margherita at Marriott hotel. Cons If only the buses were cleaner and less crowded. And if there were fewer mosquitoes, she says pointing to the red mosquito bite marks covering her hands. Till recently, she could not stand the heat here. It is hot even when it rains!
Carlos' is an ice-cream family. They are from Milan in Italy. Wife Sarah used to import coir products from Alapuzha and had become friends with many from there and Kochi. The ice-cream business in Milan has got saturated. So they thought why not start one in Kochi. In 2012 December they started the Milano Gelato in MG Road. Kochi welcomed them and the business became a success. Now the couple is thinking about starting a branch in Bangalore.
Gelato means Italian home-made ice cream. The ice cream is made in two machines at Milano and served fresh. The late Justice Krishna Iyer loved Milano's ice creams and used to visit the parlour situated next to Sahodaran Ayyappan's family home.
Click here for review of Milano. Pros What they love is Kochi's habit of welcoming strangers. They became part of the society very fast. Even on hectic days, you can go to the beach and enjoy the solitude and peace. Fort Kochi and Mattanchery are really beautiful. The fresh fish here is among the best in the world. Love the biriyanis, appam and stew. If only the climate was also like in Milan! Cons The heat. It is humid here always. The traffic is terrible. Hate the pollution from the vehicles. And the trash strewn across the streets. If the civic corporation could keep the public places clean.
Donna worked as a midwife in Alabama in America for 15 years. But for the last two years she has been doing the same work in Kochi. She runs Birth Village at a house in Vyttila, for women who think going to hospitals is an avoidable expense and C-sections are unnecessary. If there are no other medical complications, such women can give birth at Birth Village.
Before that, they are taught exercises and diet. They need to move into Birth Village when the due date nears. About 40 births take place at Birth Village every year. Donna's 17-year-old daughter Livia is there to help her in the business. Visitors are not allowed beyond the living room. Because there is a woman in labour inside! You will be surprised to see the ease with which Donna rolls off some Malayalam phrases in typical Kochi accent.
Pros Donna loves idlis. She eats them with chutney for breakfast. People in Kochi are very friendly. She also loves cycling around.
Women cannot go to a movie or a restaurant without a male for company. Mosquitoes are no big deal; you have them in Alabama too. But you don't get good American burgers in Kochi. There is no Mexican restaurant. There are no restaurants specializing in exotic cuisine. Internet services are very spotty. Authorities should take note of the poor quality of Net services in Kochi.