A Tale of Kudla

Kudla or Mangalore is more than just a city. It is a great experience. One has to feel Kudla for several years if she/he intends to plan anything for it. Otherwise we would often end up listening to slogans that in no way fits the Mangalorean context, for example ?mast majja? or ?sakat hot?.  Perhaps there is nothing bad about these slogans. It is just that such slogans were neither expressed by Mangaloreans nor do these expressions have anything to do with Mangalore. Since these are only catchphrases used for advertising in the entertainment sector, there may not be much to worry about it. What has to be thought about is to save certain local innovations, local enterprises and culture-based businesses from getting affected by developments that may not ornament well with Kudla.  

Restaurants are a service industry in which Mangaloreans have been highly creative, strongly service-oriented and well-known. For instance, the most popular ice cream parlors situated in Hampankatta and Lalbagh, who are the initiators of Gudbud, have been striving hard to give the best service to its customers. Gudbud became a culture, a pride of Mangalore and something that is Kudla-specific. Eat Gudbud in any other parts of the State and it does not taste as good and delicious as the one that you find in its place of creation. There are numerous such Kudla-based innovations and also efforts to market that innovation with quality services.

The fishmarket at State Bank and the Central Market are a couple of Kudla-specific businesses that has become a part of Mangalorean culture. For years together, these markets have been catering to our daily and culture-based needs. Be it Krishnastami, Christmas or Id, the Central market supplies us everything, right from flowers, moode leaf and ole bella (Palm jiggery) to idli steam utensils, incense sticks and fire-crackers. You also find farmers from the outskirts of Mangalore coming here and selling the local varieties of vegetables, fresh and tasty, which they have grown in their farms.  

With the introduction of shopping mall trend and super market facilities, our lifestyles have started changing.  We prefer the freedom of being alone,  getting completely lost in the sea of products, going very close to every product, analyzing it and then deciding to buy it or not, rather than the traditional way of asking a shopkeeper what we want. Our interactions have reduced; social networks that we create with a wide range of enterprises have started declining (because everything is available in the same market). Even for a soap and toothpaste, we prefer the supermarket because it gives complete freedom and makes it more convenient to decide about our purchase.

I came across so many people, who have stopped visiting the central market and now enjoy shopping in the super-market. I met quite a few who today prefer the mall ice-creams rather than Gudbud.  Fortunately, met a couple of people who reverted back to the Central market since they felt that the quality there was much better than in the super-markets. It was the quality that mattered to them and nothing else. 

Is this shift good or bad? Perhaps we need to study it. The next time we enter a mall or a super market, we might have to ask ourselves the following questions:

Does my super-market shopping benefit myself completely? The completeness here could be defined by our gain in economic terms, comfort to our health, the extent of impact on our environment (natural resources) and the social network that we create during our shopping process. If more of our natural resources are spent by the big establishments, it might eventually deprive housing areas of those resources (example: water problems in Mangalore).  The social network does matter since the happiness that we find in bargaining and friendly interaction with the shopkeeper could be of help in easing out our worries. For example, few years ago, I had met a retired government officer who often listens to the poems written by a vegetable vendor in Central market when he visits the vegetable stall. While the retired officer enjoyed listening to the poem, the vendor developed confidence to pursue his creativity. There are many more evidences to prove the benefits of such social networking.  On the contrary, who knows? Super market shopping might eventually start to get dull and boring. Shopping might turn out to be a mere mechanical activity. 

Would my shopping at the super-market lead to the disappearance of some of the local Kudla-based innovations and culture-based businesses? This question could be analyzed with the argument that the super-markets provide decent jobs to hundreds of local youths; and with the fact that there are less chances of them getting exploited by a locally-based individual-owner (under whom the worker might tend to commit throughout the lifetime without gaining much monetary or professional benefits).  On the other hand, we also have to ask as to whether these jobs are actually preventing the growth of some of the creative and entrepreneurial local youths, who would have otherwise struggled and started their own entrepreneurship had they been properly supported by the government and other relevant public-sector agencies.

Do I feel Kudla in my shopping? What I would call a typical Mangalorean shopping has much to do with a purchase that promotes the enrichment of Kudla-based innovations, improvement of local livelihood and a buying experience that makes me feel that I am in Mangalore. Desiring for a Mangalorean experience should not be mistaken with regionalism.  Also this is not about a strong NO to the development of Mangalore. This is about asking whether the development is healthy or not, analyzing it from multiple viewpoints and further planning for the right kind of progress. By questioning, we are not remaining closed to changes. We certainly have to change our attitudes towards the changes happening around us.  Nevertheless, at the same time, it is important that we enquire about the changes happening around us and also within ourselves.

The social and cultural fabric of Kudla is very unique and rich. Development needs to happen without meddling with this fabric. Else I hope that we do not end up telling our children and grandchildren that we ?used? to have a central market here, fishmarket beside?,  a small angadi (shop) there and a Kudla-based product called??..and lo,  now we are highly developed. 

Author: Kedar Uttam- Sweden