Mangaluru, Mangalore, Kudla, Kodial – call it by any name it conjures fond memories of swaying palms, gushing seas, glowing sand, the narrow, winding cul-de-sac’s and the numerous summer holidays spent in my childhood.
Visiting Mangalore in my summer holidays was a high point of my life in school. I would wait for the final exams to get over with bated breath as it would mean going back to my birthplace Mangalore. Going to Mangalore from Mumbai in those days meant an arduous 24 hour bus journey sometimes or by air on some lucky occasions.
Flying to Mangalore in those days was a luxury and would take close to 3 hours in the Avro or Caravelle aircrafts. Mangalore’s Bajpe airport was considered one of the toughest airstrips to land on and only skilled pilots on specific aircrafts could land in Bajpe. The bus journey was an enjoyable albeit tiring experience however the excitement of reaching Mangalore was enough elixir to keep the adrenalin flowing. The bus journey would begin from Sion Circle in Mumbai after a sumptuous breakfast at home. Through the winding ghats of Khandala, the bus would stop for lunch at a restaurant, Hotel Natraj near Swargate in Pune. We would usually eat our packed lunch comprising of some chappatis or sandwiches as the quality of food at the restaurant was nothing to write about. Post lunch, the journey would begin to Belgaum where the bus would invariably stop for dinner at Hotel Ramdev. This part of the journey was perhaps the worst due to the vagaries of summer and the thirst would be doused with sips from the glass bottle which we would carry from home, plastic mineral water bottles were yet to gain popularity and were not so commonly available. At Belgaum, we would feel good with the evening breeze, some nice tender coconut water and off course the dinner. We would try to not gorge on the food and try to keep the tummy light for the obvious reasons.
After dinner, the excitement would again get re-kindled, reaching Mangalore at the crack of dawn the next morning, if there were no other delays en route. In those days, the excitement of travelling in a video coach for us kids was really something. The conductor would then play a Hindi film after dinner and it would keep us glued to the TV set empanelled in the slot behind the driver’s cabin. A few winks of sleep thereafter, we would be soon crossing the temple town of Udupi, Padubidri, Mulky and the magnificent Regional College of Engineering, Surathkal before entering Mangalore with the chirping of birds and the first rays of the rising orb. As they say, enjoy the journey and you will enjoy the destination even more!
My holidays in Mangalore would begin with stays in my grand-parents house at Hampankatta; I would then go and stay with my uncle and aunt in Lady Hill. As a child, the one memory which I remember vividly is the tinkling of the ice-candy vendor’s bell; I would wait post lunch for this angel to visit and quench the thirst or craving of a young soul. I would go to the Lighthouse Hill and sit in the park every other evening. The sugarcane juice and the ‘chanboori’ (a spicy snack made of puffed rice with onions, dash of lime, coconut oil and chilli powder).
Early mornings were meant for visiting the temples in Temple Square, the Sharavu Ganapathi Temple and breakfast at Mohini Vilas. Mohini Vilas used to be bang opposite my grandparents house. Biscut Rotis, Bakala Bhaath, Tuppa dosas, steaming idlis and grape juice at Mohini Vilas remains etched in my mind even now. It is indeed sad that the Mohini Vilas Building has been demolished and when I last visited Mangalore last year; the new building was still under construction. Another favourite which continues to be patronised by the denizens of Mangalore and visitors alike is the Taj Mahal restaurant. The one on Car Street has now re-located next to Hotel Ayodhya. Car Street known for its “Car festivals” is another landmark which is now losing its old charm to give way to a broader road and increasing traffic. The Flower Market on this street, buying grocery at Panchmahal Store, the Ayurvedic medicine store remains as wonderful memories. This area is an embodiment of culture and history and I dread the thought of walking through a broader Car Street without the old shops and buildings during my next visit. The pristine beaches of Someshwar and Ullal, the Kadri temple, the Milagres Church continue to be the landmarks of this wonderful city. We would visit Nanking Chinese restaurant, which was started by an immigrant Chinese family perhaps, the Anupam Restaurant at Hotel Usha near Jyothi Circle known for its Ghee Roast and Chicken Ajadhina. This restaurant has now moved to Hotel Abhiman Residency and continues to be a favourite after all these years.
Ideal Ice-cream Parlour had just launched its now ubiquitous ‘Gadbad’ and memories of Mangalore would not be complete without a mention of this superb discovery of Mangalore. Even today I can say that Ideal serves the best varieties of ice-creams and sundaes at really affordable prices. This is one example of how a local brand has managed to keep away global giants like Baskin Robbins and Kwality.
In the last few years, Mangalore is witnessing the usual frenetic development in a burgeoning city. High rises coming up on every street, roads getting concretised, water and power shortages, shopping malls et al. While progress brings with it many benefits, it also takes away from us many things which can then only remain as memories that remain indelible to all! I fervently do hope that this rustic city which is a melting pot of so many cultures retains its warmth, greenery and does not succumb to concrete and steel.
Born in Mangalore, the author after completing his MBA is a banker by profession and currently works as an Asst.General Manager in one of the leading banks in Saudi Arabia.
By Prashant R. Rao, Riyadh