Will the real Mangalore please stand up?
Mangalore has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. On July 28, a band of around fifty hooligans belonging to the Hindu Jagarana Vedike attacked a group of a dozen young people partying in a resort in Padil on the outskirts of the city in a bid to protect Indian culture. The Karnataka State Women's Commission Chairperson C. Manjula then added fuel to fire by implying that youngsters, particularly young women, who insisted on partying somehow deserved this sort of reaction: "homestay parties mislead young girls," she remarked mysteriously. Holding parties in "remote places" leads to "suspicion," she stated categorically. The incident recalled memories of a similar act of moral policing in January 2009 when there was an attack on a Mangalore pub by members of the right wing group, Srirama Sene.
It is not my intention to review this shameful incident further. What is surprising is that it should have occurred in such a gentle, courteous town which boasts of innumerable educational institutions in which students come from all over the world to become doctors, nurses and engineers. My impression of Mangalore has always been a favourable one, from its greenery, to the gently sloping western ghats, to its magnificent beaches on the Arabian Sea, to its quaint tiled bungalows, to its ever-amenable auto rickshaw drivers. Yes, I maintain that auto rickshaw service is an excellent indicator of the level of civility in a town. Even though I have no Tulu or Kannada, not once has an auto rickshaw driver taken me on an unnecessarily long route, or refused service.
Mangalore has a population that boasts of Hindus and Christians in almost equal measure but Muslims also figure. There is a high literacy rate, and 71 per cent of the people are educated. Two of the most beautiful structures in the city are the Holy Rosary Church or Rosario Cathedral and the Milagres Church. Rosario Cathedral, tucked away in Bolar, was built in 1568 by the Portuguese and reconstructed in 1910. Its magnificent dome is supposed to resemble St Peter's in Rome.
The Milagres Church on Falnir Road was built in 1680 on land gifted by the Kelladi queen Chennama. The present church, an elegant grey and white structure, dates from 1911.
The Kadri Manjunatha Temple, dating back to 1068 AD, is the oldest Shiva shrine in Mangalore. Another attraction as is the Zeenath Baksh Masjid built by Muslim invaders in the 7th Century, with wooden carvings and pillars built by Tipu Sultan in the 17th Century. Tipu renamed it after his daughter Zeenath.
No account of Mangalore can be complete (at least, no account by me) without a mention of its numerous eateries serving up the most delicious fare at very reasonable prices. If one is in the mood to taste delicacies produced by the Christian population, one should wrangle an invitation to Mangalore Club, a gracious institution oozing old world charm, established as far back as 1876, and overlooking the picturesque Nethrvati river. It serves the most luscious sausages as well as tender suckling pig along with the best biryani in the city. And given the hospitable and generous quality of Mangaloreans, an invitation should not be difficult to procure.
One could visit similar posh locations-say The Village, a little on the outskirts of the city on the Airport Road, Yeyyadi, or Gajalee, a branch of the famous seafood restaurant in Mumbai. The Village makes the most astounding crab and squid masala fry which it serves under a thatched roof, with a waterfall gently gurgling on one side. Gajalee serves clams cooked in a heavenly coconut-green chillie paste, both hot and sweet, in a beautiful old heritage bungalow perched up on the Kadri hills.
But Mangalore, being a town overrun with students, has a number of excellent eateries that cater to a modest budget. A student favourite is Kudla located in Balmatta. The name means junction, and is the Tulu name for Mangalore. Kudla arguably serves the best chicken ghee roast (ghee roast is a coastal cuisine speciality, a dry preparation of a cut-up chicken or crab coated with rich masala and cooked to a moist crisp in ghee) and tandoori crab in town. The service is polite and prompt, and the servings more than generous. Another even more modest establishment, very popular among workers from all strata of society for a quick, delicious lunch, is Kairali in Hampankatta. Here one can have humongous pieces of the super fresh catch of the day-ladyfish, kingfish, mackerel, pomfret--crisply fried in a red hot batter studded with suji: the famous "rava fry." Or one could gorge on the prawn masala fry-a plate heaped with tiger prawns in the most heavenly sauce of red chillie paste, garlic, coconut and tamarind. A suggestion: have both!
If one has a sweet tooth, then one can partake of the moist Madeira cakes, plum cakes and delicate tea biscuits from the famous Cochin Bakery, which has branches in both Kankanadi and Paradigm Plaza, and which dates back to 1939, when three brothers with the dream of setting up a bakery left their hometown Thalassery. There is also Pabba's Ice Cream Parlour in Lal Bagh, a veritable institution in the city that opened in 1996. As soon as one enters the glass doors, one is transported back to time. The cream ceiling is decorated with gold swirls, rather like a French palace. The tables are wrought iron, topped with glass. At periodic intervals between the tables, come little screens made of stained glass to guarantee privacy while slurping one's ice cream.
Owned by the makers of the popular local ice cream brand, Ideal, set up in 1975, Pabba's fresh ice cream made of seasonal fruits such as jackfruit, custard apple, chikoo, green apple and lychee, as well as its mouth-watering sundaes with names as exotic as Senorita (blackcurrant with whipped cream,) Chocolate Dad (chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, vanilla ice cream and butterscotch brittle,) Beehive (vanilla ice cream in the shape of a beehive topped with a cherry,) Sandy Beach (who knows what that contains!) Tiramisu (brownie, vanilla ice cream, nuts, loads of chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, whipped cream,) Parfait (huge slabs of orange, pistachio and vanilla ice cream slabs arranged in a gravity-defying pyramid on every seasonal fruit imaginable, banana, pineapple, watermelon, papaya, and topped with nuts) and the most popular of all-Gadbad!
Pabba's Parfait sundae
Gadbad is the sundae that at least one person at every table is dipping into. So popular is it that the name has been adopted by other ice cream chains as well. Pabba's Gadbad is strawberry and vanilla ice cream with chopped fruits, chopped nuts, bits of random jelly and strawberry syrup. It is heaven stuffed into a small glass. One dips the long spoon in to savour the melty bits at the bottom of the glass, toppling, in the process, some of the vanilla ice cream perched precariously on top. Every time the spoon goes in, out comes a new treasure-a bit of pineapple, a shard of jelly, gobs of strawberry ice cream....If you want to celebrate a new job or a new partner, if you want to drown your sorrows, if you want to pig out just for the heck of it--the place to visit is--Pabba's!
So a word to the over-zealous moral police: please leave Mangalore alone. In the name of Hindu culture, don't destroy a civilised town in which people of different faiths have been living and eating and worshipping and congregating peaceably together for centuries.
More about Shormishtha Panja
Shormishtha Panja teaches at the University of Delhi. She writes books on critical theory, gender studies and visual culture. She loves being a mom and enjoys travelling to new countries. She is borderline obsessive about food and Renaissance art and guards her collection of children’s fiction fiercely.
- + In DU, grievous harm befalls an actor while performing a street play!
- + International Women's Day and PEHEL
- + Remembering Amrita Sher-Gil
- + India's capital and its unique 'Koi Baat Nahi' culture
- + Delhi gangrape: Need for change
- + Pandit Ravi Shankar - the rock star of classical music
- + Four more years!
- + Frankenstorm!
- + Hail to the goddess!