HE INTRODUCED HIMSELF as a photographer when he’d pulled away from a group of men to tell her how good she looked. The comment wasn’t sleazy – just a matter-of-fact statement he’d followed up by pointing out what he thought was working on her. She listened with interest – you could never tell whether you were looking like a complete pillock. After all, here she was, standing next to a large, brightly lit wooden elephant in an otherwise gloomy, dusty garden adjoining a former godown – one of the many vast, rubble-strewn storage yards in what was once the centre of international trade in Kerala’s not-too-distant past. Trade in spices, trade in ideas.
She had considered these connections even before she’d decided to make the trip to India; over the years she’d pondered why a few small, incidental items stacked up in the supermarket had once been capable of leveraging entire flotillas to take risks against the weather, pirates and scurvy. It seemed almost incomprehensible that pepper had been so valuable it was known as black gold. She’d read about how important spices had been to preserving food, but these facts did little to explain what for centuries seemed to be a trade of passion. The very titles exuded lust: the spice trade, the spice route.
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