Two weeks back we travelled to Kozhikode, to attend a wedding of a friend, and to catch up with others too. Kozhikode is a city in north Kerala, situated right on the west coast in Malabar. I was not looking forward to this trip, partially because I knew how the weather there would be like at this time of the year. But also because I have my own history with the place. The last time I was here was...what..11 years ago ? For my undergraduation I went to an aided college in this district, and had to travel frequently via private buses on this route. There was no direct bus to my college, I had to switch buses at Kozhikode private bus stand, with those half ring curves for its roof. While there, I have had snacks and tea between buses, and very rarely, lunch. And I hated college. Really hated. So when I finally I secured my degree and certificate , I had decided I will never have to come back to this place again.
Well after 11 years I can proudly say the city has not changed much at all. I remember the traffic was always this bad. Specially around the bus stand, those roads are the arteries of the city traffic. And the weather was always this hot. Being so close to the beach, the humidity is always high. The city has this strange habit of clinging on to its past, modernization comes so slowly. Even in this day and age, most of the establishments do not accept credit card or e-wallets for payment. Except only the high end ones. And people still stare at couples walking together in the big city.
And the hotels, they still cling on to their 12-pm-checkin time rule from last century. We had to pay extra on OYO to ensure we could check in at 7 in the morning. Maybe they take up the entire morning to clean up, thus mandating that checkins are only after 12 noon. But what about early morning travellers ?
It is a similiar irony at the city's most well known shopping mall, the 'Focus' mall. Surprisingly, this is just opposite the private bus stand I used to travel through as a student. There are a few other malls too, but this one seems to be the most well equipped. Puttakke puttakke karimeen puttakke. All the youngsters are there, and even a lot of families. Kozhikode has a majority muslim population, and they dress conservatively. I still cannot understand how they wear those long black burqas under such a blazing heat. So it was ironical that the branded readymade showrooms in the mall were advertizing and displaying a lot of western wear, things which no body in this city would dare to wear. All those shorts and tights and straps, anybody wearing these would turn heads of the 'traditional' population. Neverthless, people were still checking those clothes out.
The autorikshaw drivers in the city maybe charge the lowest fares in the country. I hope that stays like that for a long long time. We travelled 8 times in autos and paid a total of only 200 rupees ! We would have had to pay about 500 had it been in Bangalore. There is really no need to own a car here, these autos are dependable enough to get around , and they know every nook and cranny and all the secret roads of the city, some I could not even find on google maps !
As always, the city still serves up the best food. Wether it is vegetarian fare, or their cuisines borrowed from Arabia, or their famous biriyanis, the food is lip smacking ! Do visit on an empty stomach. Also one has to visit those famous halwa stands to sample all those colorful halwas, now available in modern flavors of mango and grape !
And another thing which is thankfully still the same, is the cleanliness. It is still the cleanest cities I have visited in my country. Even the beach area is clean and well maintained. The rest of this country and learn something from it.