Oh! our beloved SM street

My mother in law was surprised at our ignorance of world happenings – she is like many others in Kerala, one who do not start the day without digesting every word in the newspaper they subscribe to - she asked my wife – are you telling me you did not hear about the fire in SM street (Sweet meat street in Calicut)? Well, in the remote reaches of California, a place like Calicut (the biryani capital for malayalis) is quite an unheard part of the world. But the news was not good and we quickly checked out the details on the web, with great sadness. It was big fire on MP road actually, a road that runs perpendicular to SM Street. There is talk of sabotage, rising numbers of terrorist elements in the area and short circuits.. Sajitha K also has a nice & heartfelt blog up, about the tragedy.

And like an idiot I made a wisecrack to my wife, ‘at least now they will rebuild SM Street’ effectively destroying the rest of the evening’s joys with a sulking partner glowering at me. You see, Kozhikodans are quite possessive about their town. But then, I was actually making a serious comment, remembering the famous ex collector of Calicut (Amitab Kant) who beautified the beach and Manachira maidan and the Zamorins pond….and one who wanted to modernize the SM street, but never succeeded..

So why is it called Sweet meat street? Meat was never sold there, nor were butchers allowed. It was because the trading foreigners equated Calicut
halwas – a sweet brown red delicacy to Sweet meat. Man, these meat eaters from the west…how could they do this - anyway the name stuck for the next few centuries. Incidentally Halwa must have come from Turkey to India via the silk route, you do see Halwa in the Middle East & Turkey, but it is quite different. Only the Turkish Delight or Lokum is similar in texture (though not in taste) to our Calicut Halwa.

Ask anybody from Calicut – even though many women complain about gropers & bumpers in that busy & congested street, they say the ambience while shopping there is second to none – the energy of the shoppers and the shopkeepers, the shopkeepers being the friendliest in Kerala. My son for example remembers the sport shop there, from where we picked up sports gear and I remember so much– Maharaj Halwa, Topform restaurant, Queens restaurant, Bata, and so much more – even the shuttered out
Parsi temple next to the Bata store. Not much has changed over the ages, except for a couple of new buildings opposite the Bata area where new textile shops abound. Let us take a detailed look…

Starting near the old Kidsons restaurant, with Kalanthan’s famous Sharjah (mixed fruit cocktail)juice & faluda centre, the street stretches half a mile bordering the LIC office, the Hantex handloom shop, the taxi stand…the Queens restaurant, a couple of shops selling this and that, a few sweetmeat shops, including Maharaj’s…a sports shop and a number of clothes shops, till you reach the fork with Radha theatre on one side and the road towards the tracks on the other…then comes the Parsi temple, the Bata shop and the WITCO centre…the other side has developed somewhat, some utensil shops and the arcade for clothes…further on to the railway tracks is the Topform restaurant – phew! you get the best Porotta and Mutta Kurma there. So much more to say, but non Kozhikodan’s won’t have the faintest clue…

MP road had the Oasis restaurant - a slightly up-market hotel in the old days, but now I guess it is gone with the fire. Somewhere in between is the famous
Purdah house, about which much is said. The good thing is that only the MP road part has been damaged and the shop owners are simply not agreeing for a large scale modernization!! Hurrah!

Calicut, the centre for sweet meat, I remember my early school & college days there, and we go there every year where I still enjoy the walks around town - dhoti clad with a kalan umbrella (u need one in Jul-Aug) – people who know me ask, entha muftiyil?I enjoy that anonymity, walking around without a care…Calicut - The place where VK Krishna Menon grew up- the place that instilled the fervor & statesmanship in him, also the home town of stalwarts like MS Baburaj, Mamukoya, KPK Menon, Abdul Khader, Urub, SK Pottekat, and the place where the Sagar restaurant is located – I doubt if anybody would ever forget the Sagar biryani and the poricha koyi…Park restaurant (demolished long ago) which served the best coffee and faluda’s, Queen’s restaurant that claimed to be run by unemployed post graduates, which also proudly exhibited the wares of Michiko and Sumiko, the fabled cabaret dancers..

SM street is the nerve centre of that town – and when something happens to SM street, it upsets the very rhythm of the throbbing town and every optimist persona of Calicut – as I could readily feel from the words of my Mil and wife…

Kozhikode halwa seller photo – skasuga
A lovely
column by Anita Nair.
The burning street photos by Ajilan – Varthamanam daily



Comments

sudeep said…
sweet meat street? in malayalam it's called mithai theruv, and i have seen sweet mithai street written somewhere (can't remember where). sweet meat is an interesting one though.
diyadear said…
hey maddy,
very nice post.. i love kozhikode n have many friends from there.. hey hope u've tasted the avil milkshake which we get at the shops near bus stand.. n sagr..oh thats a favourite.. i miss biriyani soo much.. after i left college i have never tasted a gud malabar biriyani... :(
sreejith said…
It has been quite some time,since somebody wrote something sensible about my home town....

I wud like to read more on this kind ,adding notes more on SK and his text on SM street....

This is pleasure

Sreejith
Maddy said…
hi sudheep - it sure is sweet meat street,
diyadear -actually have not tried the avil milk shake, i should though - sagar biryani - well, it is a dream for the vacation....BTW do you know what EMS is??
sreejith - plenty to come on calicut soon, on these pages, i assure you
thank you all for dropping by..
Vidyu said…
That made me sooo nostalgic ...Gosh...Kozhikode...the beautiful memories of yesteryears... I agree, it certainly is the Biryani Capital :) How can one forget the Bombay Hotel Biryani and the French Store Parotta and Mutta Roast :) Yummy!!!! :) and the Maharaja Bakery Bread, Rusk and Halwa...

I too had never heard of the fire :( thanks to ur post Maddy..I checked out for more info..

Thanks for this awesome post...so enjoyed reading it :) If I could, I would, in a heartbeat, rewind my life to go back to sweet ol' Kozhikode :)
Maddy said…
aha - took you back home, eh? yes, after Sagar picked up, many forgot the Bombay restaurant...the original...remember the 'puffs' at French? Paragon is another recent entry in Calicut. When I was in college there, Paragon was just a chayakada...
Happy Kitten said…
shld make my hubby read this one! he is born and brought up in Calicut.. me went there twice after marriage... yea the people r very frndly and the shop keepers r very smart!

but I found that the people seldom give way for the traffic on the roads! they just stand there and expect the traffic to move around!
Maddy said…
Actually this is one place where shop keepers seem to enjoy their work - eager to please. They will show you all their wares even if you did not want to purchase any.

SM street is supposedly a 'no traffic' street (except for autos & 2 wheelers).
I think a part of it allows cars. As a pedestrain street and as a state where people are very eager to protect their rights, I am not surprised at your comment. I myself would remark in my mind if some chap honks his horn & shock me out of my wits - ithu arada,eee kizangan pinnale carum kondu vanna daridravasi?
As for other parts, calicut is one place where land acuisition still does not work,so there is no wide road to speak off and people do spill on to streets.
Daniel said…
Hullo Manmadhan,

This is a voice from the past! Your classmate from REC - Daniel.

Browsing through your blogs I found that your etymology of 'sweetmeat' is very creative but not accurate. I believe 'sweetmeat' is of European origin meaning confectionary in general and not some dazed explorer's invention.
Maddy said…
Hey Daniel - it was a pleasure hearing from you. I accept your explanation and admit that it was possibly just a wisecrack from my side. This was written long ago, and i do remember that my understanding was augmented by some kind of newspaper report. But well, you have raised my curiosity level now and I will try & get to the bottom of it. But knowing you, I feel you are right.
Maddy said…
Hi Daniel - Yes, you are on the dot as usual. The word has a British origin from ancient times, but I have still not fathomed how the word originated.
kallu said…
Maddy, i can see Calicut needs lots of visits to see and taste all that you mention. Looking forward to that. Great post.
jamshad said…
Good to something written on our beloved Sweet Meat Street..

BTW.. I know the halwa seller in the pic..
Maddy said…
thanks jamshad...
dimpy roy said…
Lovely post. Kozhikode or Calicut, the gateway to Kerala, is a prosperous and thriving destination packed with tourist attractions. check out all 177 places to visit in Calicut also.

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