Cochin is a cosmopolitan melting pot of communities and religions, a fact that the shop in the photo above bears mute testimony to. The date of establishment of the shop, which is located on Broadway, is 1868 — and therein hangs a tale. The Koders were Cochin Jews and had established themselves as prominent merchants in Cochin. The faded lettering over the store symbolizes the state of Cochin Jews in Cochin today; just a handful remain, the rest having emigrated to Israel.
You can read more about the Koders here: The Koders of Cochin
The following anecdote is from my father. Satu Koder, the scion of the family who stayed back in India (the other sons presumably established businesses in other countries), was nominated a member of the Cochin State legislative assembly in the days before India’s independence, when the Cochin royal family ruled Cochin state under British oversight. The subject being discussed in the assembly one day was alcohol, with Congressmen waxing eloquent on its evils. After all, prohibition is still in force today in Gujarat, where Mahatma Gandhi was born.
When it was Satu Koder’s turn to speak, he said that he consumed alcohol regularly, without any ill effects. In fact, he claimed, after drinking alcohol, he felt energetic and his brain functioned even better than before! The chagrin of the Congressmen — and their indignant responses — can be imagined. 🙂
Tailpiece: While on the subject of melting pots, India is itself a gigantic melting pot of religions, ethinicities, and cultures; the larger-than-life “Godrej” above the shop’s entrance is the name of a major Parsi business group.