The Land That Lost Its History

Come to the Chinese nets and turn right. for the two years my family lived in Cochin, back in the early 1980s, that's how my folks gave directions to our home. We lived just around the corner from the city's most prominent landmark, a cluster of giant, cantilevered wooden-frame contraptions that local fishermen manually dipped into the green-gray backwaters that crisscross the city. It was the received wisdom that these nets were Chinese — everybody said so, and the municipal office had posted a plaque nearby, attesting to their oriental antecedents. At age 15, preoccupied by football and heavy-metal music, it...

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