Monday, October 26, 2009

Simchat Torah –A Cochin version of Tolerance and Peace

The Jews in Cochin is always a bit different from the other Jews in the world as they have their own version of everything. The Pardesi Synagogue well decorated with gold and silver embroidered Parakoth, Jasmine flower garlands, Candles and other traditional decorative which they used years ago and those are used still as a symbol of love to the traditions. As explained by Sarah Auntie and Thaha.

On 8th evening I went to Sarah Auntie’s house as she invited me for seeing the Simchat Torah festival to be followed next three days. When I went there, Thaha was stitching the old Parakoth which will be above 50 years old with an ivory colour embroidered with gold plated silver thread and it was given to the synagogue by “Issaac Hallegua” as it is written. Sarah auntie was explaining about the parakoth her father brought from Bombay as a tribute to her late Mother and she told that it was brought in a big box it was also embroidered in gold plated silver and she asked Thaha to take me along with him to synagogue to show that parakoth She came out of her house and was still explaining about the parakoth all the tourists were looking at me literally a center of attraction oops….. He took me to Synagogue, the evening light gave a fine touch to it and I was amazed to see beautifully decorated synagogue.Mr.Joy the care taker of synagogue and Solomon an old man who is assistant to him both are Christians and they were decorating the synagogue with the help of some other Kashmiri shopkeepers of Jews street. we gave the stitched parakoth to Mr. joy he was still engaged in the decorating works and we went back to Sarah auntie’s house and I promised her that I will be coming tomorrow. To see the Aalvilakku “the light which resembles a banyan tree ”.

The next day when I went there Her, Seli chechi and Thaha was making Kadathala Pasthel (a delicacy snack of Cochin Jews) for Shabbat and she allowed me to try making one and she gave a good comment on it and it was easy to me as I had tried it once in my home. And we grilled it with a little of Coconut oil. After I went out I saw Gammy uncle whose name is Gamliel I sat with him in the cut stone which was there in front of aunt’s house and Thaha too joined. Gammy uncle explained many funny stories of his child hood days and about the other stories of late Sassoon kocha (Kocha and kaaka are two old words used by other people to call cochin jews generally) he was a character who used to crack good jokes as gammy uncle explained.stories took a long way and was absolutely funny and even it gave a unclear picture of old cochin Jewish community, by the time the Aalvilakku was lighted and we went to see it and clicked many photos Isaac uncle came out of synagogue and saw the Magen David lamp placed in a wrong direction by the workers.

Later Me,Thaha and Joy placed it in right position.

Then had a talk with the police men who are the guards of synagogue and answered their questions about the Jewish community and culture. By the time went on a car came to the Jew street and a family came out and they were from Hyderabad. they were amazed to see this auspicious evening with lighted aalvilakku and they asked about it to a police man but I explained to them about it was something special to me and hope for them too. And I introduced Thaha to them and show my Hebrew calligraphic pieces and said to Mr.Vinod that these are the symbols of peace and harmony which you can see only in cochin, he was happy with it I read it from his face they left I promised that I will make a call.

The next Day I went to Sarah Auntie’s house with some fruits as it was Shabbat. Seli chechi took Tea with some banana chips, and some other snacks ,“burdoor” ( a specialty sponge cake of Cochin Jews) and one special cake with dried fruits and nuts with the taste of Ghee (Indian Clarified butter). Isaac uncle also joined for that and he was talking about the similarity between Jews and Muslims and said we are brothers and he asked me how I learned Hebrew. Sarah Aunt told that Isaac Uncle liked me very much otherwise he wont talk to you this much. later Gammy uncle also came there and I asked Seli chechi to take the oranges that I brought we had it together by the time Sarah auntie came dressed with ruby red sari and gold ornaments. She asked me to bring my mom to show the decorated synagogue and she made a call and at last my whole family came to visit Sarah Auntie and Thana’s family also came by that time and Auntie took us to Synagogue it was the time for them for prayer but as there was only less number of Jews to be a Asarah (a number of ten) but she tooked us and we saw the beautifully decorated synagogue. Gammy uncle along with others was sitting with one person as I didn’t knew him I went to him and wished and he introduced as Sam and I asked for his full name he told Yosef Abraham I wrote it in Hebrew and showed he was pretty amazed and showed to his Jewish friend from Israel he also liked it then I went to gammy uncles wife who already was there just beside them stood the Sam’s wife and his daughter, gammy uncles wife explained about me and Sam’s wife asked me to write her name that is Hannah and after she told to write Yakirah her daughters name I wrote it too. And we left from there

That was a great experience to me.
I think Jew town in Cochin is a small Jerusalem where Jews and Muslims live with love peace and harmony but unlike Jerusalem this place makes the sense of the name Jerusalem “the city of peace.” with the peaceful co-existence and tolerance among the religion.