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Where are all the Mangaloreans?


Mangalore, January 1, 2009 (ANI)
Where are the famous Mangaloreans who brandish their origins at the drop of a hat? Why are they not speaking up for the protection of the secular and liberal culture of this beautiful port city?
Aishwarya Rai (films), Vijay Mallya (industrialist), Suneil Shetty (films), Margaret Alva (politician), George Fernandes (politician), Veerappa Moily (politician), Oscar Fernandes (politician), Veerendra Hegde (Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala temple), Shilpa Shetty (actress), Maxwell Pereira (super cop) and Arvind Adiga (Booker prize) speak up for your city.
This is not the Mangalore that I grew up in…. the city where I spent my summers at the homes of aunts and grandparents, visited restaurants and temples, wearing whatever I pleased. Nobody stopped me. Not even the Shankaracharya of the Sri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri.
The Peetham is the first and foremost of the four Peethams established by the renowned 8th century philosopher saint Sri Adi Shankara. This was in 1980, and women were safe in Mangalore. At the Sringeri Math, women only wore saris when they sought the darshan of the Shankaracharya.
Since I didn’t own a blouse and sari, I decided to wear a salwar kameez. I didn’t think I was insulting anybody, after all, the men were topless! The Swamiji looked at me and asked me very politely in Kannada if I was a North Indian. I replied in chaste Kannada that I was a Kannadiga, but lived in the North. He nodded, smiled and said, “that explains your choice of attire.” There was no censure in his voice or his eyes.
I am so glad that in my teen years I only met with the erudite 35th Shankaracharya who embodied what the culture of coastal Karnataka is all about…inclusive, tolerant and respectful of all cultures.
Thankfully Pramod Muthalik hadn’t yet formed his Sri Ram Sene. This Marathi-speaking non-Mangalorean, non-Kannadiga from Belgaum was still not sure where his political fortunes lay. He was still trying out his luck with the Shiv Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, RSS, Rashtriya Hindustan Sena or this new and blasphemous Ram Sene. And during this time, he was also reportedly Nathuram Godse’s fan! What an endearing personality!
A part of Mangalore is called Kudla in Tulu (a language spoken in many parts of coastal Karnataka), which literally means junction. The city is situated at the meeting point of rivers Netravati and Phalguni. But figuratively, it is also the junction of various religions and cultures like Hinduism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity.
Mangalore finds mention in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It was also in the travel itinerary of Greek, Persian and Portuguese sailors even before the 14th century. Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Hoysalas ruled it. And then, there was Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Mangaloreans are proud of their inclusive and open culture.
The city has a male literacy rate of 90 percent and a female literacy rate of 80 percent. Mangalore is called the ‘Apron of India’…. this is because of the number of students you see walking around wearing lab coats (known as aprons in Mangalore). Do you know that in this small city, there are five medical colleges, four dental colleges, 20 nursing colleges, 10 institutes of physiotherapy and pharmacy, 14 engineering colleges, nine industrial training institutes, five hotel management institutes and 42 colleges offering bachelors, masters and doctorates in arts commerce and business management?
In the sixties and seventies, when the self-appointed custodians of Hindu culture hadn’t descended on this town masquerading as a city, my great aunts would drive us to Jyoti Talkies to see Kannada films and New Chitra to see Hollywood movies.
This is where the first ice cream sundae in India was born called ‘Gadbad’. Teenage couples could share this gastronomic delight looking into each other’s eyes adoringly without any fear of a Muthalik or an Ashok Gehlot frowning on them or even slapping them! But that was in the seventies you see…. there was no Hindu Taliban then.
I wore hand-me-downs from my aunts…they wore them in the sixties and early seventies and I wore them in the late seventies and eighties… skirts, slacks, skivie tops, bell bottoms with bindis (horror). If we wore or didn’t wear certain outfits, it was because we didn’t want to; it was never because of fear of any organization or goondas. Sure there were ‘eve teasers’ called ‘polis’, but all you needed to do was turn towards them and glare and that was enough to send them scampering away.
That is what Mangalore was all about. Sure Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa wants to do away with pub culture, but he certainly will not stop a Mallya from making his beer. After all look at the revenue his government rakes in from taxing breweries. So, in effect, consumption is bad, production isn’t?
The BJP in Delhi might want to distance itself from the Sene and its brand of Hindutva, but the BJP in Bangalore has no such pretensions. Hopefully, Mangalore will give its reply at the ballot box.
Do Muthalik and his goondas seriously believe that the educated women of this city need his “protection”? No thank you. Keep your lathis inside your shakhas. Keep your narrow mindsets inside your darkened walls; the Mangalorean spirit will survive, despite you.
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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indias leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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