Cochin might have long-forgotten than she's the queen of the Arabian Sea and sunk to the decadence of a harlot. The Land Mafia whom we will call LM, without doubt is her no. 1 customer. The b*****d fucks her, rapes her, degrades her, humiliates her, disfigures her for his pleasure, but somewhere in her foolish heart, she expects him to propose marriage and save her from the messy life she lives. Somewhere she harbours that hope, because he is charming and beautiful as much as he is selfish and greedy. That he will make her rich. Till then she will continue to give, give and give, till she runs dry. She turns grey and ugly as he ravages her and takes her as he pleases. There was a time when trees and not apartments made the skyline. It wasn't as grandiose and tall as it is now, but Cochin breathed back then. A time when her people didn't constantly have dust in their lungs, in their hair and in between their nails. She traded trees and pretty flowers for concrete and sinusitis. She let him in with his cement mixers, his multi-storey apartments and his grey skies and grimy rain. She sold her sisters to him, she let him build terminals and rail roads where herons and wood sprites took shelter. She let him fill up her marshes and the frogs forgot their songs and serpents beat their heads at this folly. She let him build car parks and shops where her girlhood friends once stood. She watched him tear their limbs and cart them away to become furniture and wood paneling. At night she watches out for him with the rumble of the highway and mosquitoes for company. She sometimes wonders whatever became of the crickets and the cicadas, but then her thoughts wander to how sweet life would be if he made her his.
Once, in her waters, dolphins raced joyously with water nymphs who wore glittery ornaments in their seaweed hair, to greet the first rays of the sun. Now the sun rises and sinks with the perfunctory callousness of someone who couldn't care less. The sun glares with the hostility of a scorned lover, charring people with impatience and vice. The gods and goddesses who once inhabited the trees and the lotus ponds, and slept in the golden husks of the emerald fields retreated into the confines of their sanctum sanctorums. In the green depths of the temple ponds, she hid her secrets and in the open backwaters, where she once had secret trysts with a dark-skinned boy who sang with the sweet saltiness of a sea-breeze. But the boy stopped singing a long time ago and she stopped waiting for him even longer. Her river beds where the remains of her drowned dreams lay, she gave away for the asking. She watched them filling out the shores of her backwaters with nary a question nor a flinch. To those who asked, she merely shrugged her shoulders and smiled at her second-most favourite customer. The establishment.
She liked Establishment. If Mr. LM promised her wealth and stature, Establishment with his slimey smiles and oily palms read her the fine print. With Establishment, she always felt like she was the one in charge. Establishment was in love with her, and she used his love against him. He did her favours, he trimmed his ugly nose hairs so that she would call him handsome. But most of all, he brought her that magical thing that LM could never give her. Guidelines. That magical word that was more flexible than a rubber band and did more miracles than God's very hand. by a sleight of hand, what was illegal transformed most painlessly into legal just by mere definition. He takes care of the idealists and the communists who care to protest. Though he hated the aforementioned LM, he always ensured that she never had to be the one to take the fall.
He gave her dignity. He made her meetings with the men in white less ugly. He held her close and whispered into her hair that he loved her. That made her smile. Of course, a lot of promises failed to materialise. But not before he had worn himself to the bone running after it. Dear, foolish One. That made her smile as well. He smoothed down the bumpy ride of procedure, so that she could someday boast that ever elusive trait - infrastructure. He was her No.1 henchman and he carried her home when she was too drunk. He gave without asking. And he took only after asking. Or so she believed. He made her promises of investment and gave her a bed large enough for her most prized, but in a strictly business sense, customer. Tourism.
For him she wears her purple scarf and wears her rings that validate her aristocratic heritage - her rings of pearl, opal and amethyst that claim her lineage. She smiles with the grace of sepia and paints her mouth the colour of roses for him. Cochin might have long-forgotten than she's the queen of the Arabian Sea and sunk to the decadence of a harlot; but once in a year, she bedecks herself with the regality of a once-princess who hasn't quite forgotten her charms. A nubile princess who waits impatiently for queenhood. One reckless with the intoxication of day dreams and bequeathed legacy. She wears frangipani in her hair and smiles a smile, light and breezy as white linen. He brings the glamour of yachts and she lures him with charm. She recounts tales of romance and he helps her relive them. A fresh coat of paint to cover what history won’t let her forget. Quaint neighbourhoods play out a timeless tableau. The two islands which have faced each other like sentries since forever, continue to guard the harbour mouth, which for centuries has been the passage for storms and sundry. Altogether, maintaining the poise of a lifted chin and keeping her visibly conscious of her fine bloodline. And subtly reminding her lovers, that when all is said and done, she still remains a queen.