Kozhikode too deserves special attention on par with any other ancinet settlement in India. And no visitor to the place can forgo the pleasure of a stroll through the historic S M Street. Apart from the local population, history records that Arabs, Jews, Parsees, Gujarathis, Konkinis and people belonging to umpteen nationalities have trodden this five-centuries old path. The Fire temple of the Paris bears mute witness to this ancient bond.
As part of the burgeoning development of urban India, Kozhikode too has started to expand of late. As part of such sometimes planned but mostly erratic expansion, that S M Street too is choking is a reality. Over the past 22 years I have had the opportunity to visit very many ancient cities, predominantly in Europe. It has struck me as commendable, that in keeping with the times all these places have creatively preserved their inestimable legacies, privileging the demands of pedestrians above all other considerations.
It is but meet that as a nation progresses, it cities and in turn the cities too are constrained to expand. It is as organic a process as when we too go for bigger fittings of clothing as our bodies grow. When ancient cities refuse to march with the times, it is the customer who is shortchanged. It is keeping in mind the conveniences and needs of both shopkeepers and customers that heritage streets have been created abroad.
Initially, the merchants in these streets were sensitised to evolving needs of contemporary shoppers. Various opinions, antagonistic stances were all amicably resolved by wise administrators. Such transformations afforded me a different experience.
The forefathers of my dear friend Yorgos Papandreou used to run their cloth shop in Ermou Street, which branches out from Stadiou Road adjacent to the centrally located Syntagma Square of Athens. The erratic traffic in the narrow street used to hound both shoppers and pedestrians alike. His papa Yannis once recounted to me how along with the clamour of vehicles, its toxic emissions gifted him breathlessness and burning eyes in his old age.
Then, in 1996 the one and a half kilometer street was pedestrianised. Incidentally, that was the year of my first trip to Greece. Over time, this process was extended and now a lovely stretch even extends to the ancient temple of Acropolis.