Cochin (or Kochi) is emerging as a bit of an art hub: just like Soho or Wollahra, but without the jaw-dropping prices, stark white walls, carefully tilted lighting, gallerinas and having to pretend you understand the meaning of, say, a sculpture made out of jelly babies. Rather, you'll find art on cafe walls, piles and stacks in the back rooms of shops, and in modest galleries in the back streets of Jewtown.
Last year while in Cochin, we were in a cafe watching the rain bucketing down and drinking tea when we struck up a conversation with the owners. Did we want plantation-fresh vanilla beans? Were we interested in checking out some art? Yes and yes, so upstairs we went. There, we found ourselves in a capacious room flooded with natural light, in amongst hundreds of paintings and drawings.
Immediately I was drawn to this one:
It shows camels at a beauty contest. I liked the bright colours, the expressions on their faces, the scale and the detail. It's by a local artist called Appu Vennikkal, who also painted another canvas of big bright green leaves, a single pink flower and a girl's face in the corner, that I was also drawn to.
Jason hated it.
One of a series of moody oils of rickshaw-studded streetscapes. I am such an art novice I didn't even think to write down the name of the artist.
We spent two days working our way through this room and another showroom owned by the same people, but kept coming back to these two paintings.
Now, they're hanging in our flat. Visitors tend to gravitate towards Jason's painting, politely murmuring "yes it's very interesting" when I ask if they like the camels, but I still love it. Even Jason came round, eventually.
Darshan Art Cafe
6/74 Jewtown, Cochin
0091-484-2222544 / 098474 78882
We stayed at Malabar House (an anniversary blowout)
Another hotel is the Brunton Boatyard, which has a great restaurant with an outdoor section that's right on the water.
Years ago I ate dinner in a gorgeous little cobblestone courtyard restaurant and never forgot it, and this time went around Cochin describing it, hoping to find it again. Naturally, it turned out to be called The Old Courtyard.