Kochi pazhaya kochi alla. A local goonda warns Bilal while the latter in searching for his mother's killer in the Malayalam adaptation of the Sons of Katie Elder. Bilal, who was a terror in that part of Kochi once upon a time, comes back after many years of exile. Kochi has changed a lot in the mean time. So, it is a warning for Bilal before he embarks on the path of violence. Bilal's response provides the most memorable quote unquotes of movie dialogues exuding underplay and unmistakable machismo.
Anyone returning to Kochi (technically Ernakulam) these days are in for a shock. "You will not recognize Kochi". This is what my friend warned me. It has only been 4 years since my last visit. What can happen to a city in a span of 4 years that can leave me surprised? Those were my thoughts to his warning. After crossing Edapally junction (and of course Lulu mall before reaching the junction), I had trouble finding the turn to Elamakkara. After missing the first turn, I had to slow down and look hard for the Edappally High School. Luckily, I found it and made the turn just in time to reach my home.
The Kochi Metro is reshaping Ernakulam right from Alwaye. Anybody who has been to NCR region or Bengaluru knows the great divide which starts from the middle of the road to the sky created by the Metro. This is now happening in Ernakulam. The Metro pillars are going up in rapid speed. With the construction of Metro gathering momentum, the city is looking like Gurgaon pollinated with Pune. Ernakulam resembles Gurgaon just before Commonwealth Games where there were barriers and pillars going up in a frenetic pace in order to complete the Delhi metro extensions. Ernakulam resembles Pune because the roads have become narrower just like it was when a string of overpasses were being constructed in Pune.
Because of the Kochi Metro, I can hardly recognize any of the old landmarks. It is extremely difficult to navigate in the city especially if you are visiting after a long time. Now, a junction in the city resembles like Bengaluru. As soon as you stop, people approach you from all sides displaying something to sell. They speak in Hindi giving it pan-India feel. The only difference is in the way they begin their sales pitch. They call you chettaa instead of bhaiyya. I thank God for small mercies.
What warmed my heart is how people have adapted to the influx of non-Malayalam speaking people and this was witnessed in the Indian Oil outlet on NH 47 just after the Vytilla junction. The attendant in gas pump was instructed the next car to come forward in Malayalam accented Hindi. "Aage aao... Aage aao".