The Dying Mangalore – A Walk Down Memory Lane

The Small by-lanes that lent charm to this town are vanishing

So, anyways, people who know me, feel that there’s one thing I’m not really comfortable about. And that’s talking about my childhood years. Anyone who can call me a “friend” of mine, knows that I become pretty edgy when the conversation veers off in that direction. Some people in jest think of it as attributed to some weird sort of childhood trauma or whatever. I assure you people, that isn’t the reason.

Well, the main reason I don’t like to talk about my childhood years, is because I’m damn sentimental about that phase of my life. Again, not because of trauma, but because of the setting that I grew up in. I’m a born and brought up Mangalorean, with all due to respect to my friends of Mangalorean origin but raised elsewhere, you might be Mangalorean at heart, but being brought up Mangalorean is something that isn’t in your blood, you have to live in Mangalore to experience that.

It just occurred to me the other day how much Mangalore had changed. As my friends know, despite being in MIT Manipal, I religiously travel to Mangalore once a week. And the journey is so frequent, that every image gets ingrained into your head after a certain point. And for that particular reason, I had lost the excitement that I would initially feel when I reached home. Nowadays, I just sleep it off, not bothered to know what sights and sounds await with each journey.

mangalore dongerkeri kudr
The Small by-lanes that lent charm to this town are vanishing

However, this past week, I had snapped out of my slumber, when the bus hit a particularly rough patch near the outskirts of Mangalore. Sleeping in a Volvo bus isn’t the most comfortable experience in the world. Though it has all the merits of an AC, the absurdly small seats without head rests make you wonder if the guys at Volvo ever cared about people who were taller than five and a half feet. Having said all that, my neck had gone all stiff, and I twisted and turn about my seat, making conspicuous crackling noises that become frequent with the passage of time. But what surprised me the most, was the sudden slope that my bus had encountered when I had reached Mangalore.

Being a person who’s prone to panick attacks, my sense of being able to think rationally just flew out of the window. I began wondering if in my complacency I had boarded the wrong bus. I double checked my ticket, but it just didn’t make sense! And when you lose your bearings like that, you just peer out of the windows to get a sense of the surroundings.mangalore lower car street

It was then that I realised that we were on a flyover! Oh My God, since when did Mangalore have flyovers?? As we zipped along the flyovers, my mind drifted at an equal speed in the opposite direction. I was flipping back over the days, weeks, months and years. As the bus passed every new stop, my mind would compare it with what the surrounding areas of that stop would look like ten years ago. Mangalore had changed so much from what it used to be in the 90’s!

There are certain moments in life when everything puts itself in perspective. This was one of them. I was humbled to realise how much things can change in such a short space of time.

Many of my friends from Manipal who aren’t from here have a pet grouse that goes along these lines: “Mangalore is so boring yaar! There’s hardly anything to do there!” and then, they would ask me “What’s so special about Mangalore man? What makes you go there once a week? Don’t you get bored there in the vacations?”

Well, the most obvious answer to that is the fact that my girlfriend stays in Mangalore, but besides that, the thing is that guys, if you think Mangalore is boring now to you, then you would have probably committed suicide had you been here ten years ago.

empire mall
Empire Mall – one of the first few malls in Mangalore is a ghost building now

Mangalore was a much different place back then. There were no Malls, no fast food chains, no fly overs, no multiplexes, no retail stores, and the likes you would associate as a sign of development in modern India. Back then, Mangalore was a sleepy town. The roads here were motorable, and the vehicles so scarce that I remember people would play cricket on the streets without the fear of being run over. This was a time when vehicles had different colourings on their number plates. Mangalore had just been promoted to the status of a “city” from a “town”. People never used to go to Big Bazaar or Spar or More. People would just go to the nearest grocer and buy whatever was needed to carry on life.

Branded stuff was a distant dream. If you were that well off back then, you would have to travel to Bangalore to buy such things. Trips to Bangalore were a reward for a good school term. Bangalore which was at the cusp of it’s IT revolution, had the best of things that us Mangaloreans would crave for: Pizza Hut, KFC, Baskin Robbins (which would later open on a small-scale), Domino’s, McDonald’s, etc. People who had shoe sizes greater than size 9 would have had to travel to Bangalore just to buy a decent pair of shoes (I remember doing this until my 9th STD). In Mangalore, there were no hang outs as such. Hanging out meant travelling to a beach on a cool Sunday evening. Or sitting near Sultan Battery, flinging rocks into the Gurpur River, as the orange disc of the Sun faded into oblivion, only to the rise again the next day. Eating chaats like Bhelpuri, Dahipuri, Charmuri and the likes was a way to pass time when School got out. Treating your friends to such things, a sign of having surplus cash.

Night Outs meant going to some decent restaurant, and bars were frowned upon. The best way to culminate an outing would have been to travel to Pabba’s, and have their world famous Gad-Bad, not the horrendous imitations that you see everywhere else. There was no DTH, no international TV channels. Just Star, Zee, DD, Cartoon Network and the likes. Growing up watching all those vintage tv shows, makes me all the more bitter when I see TV these days. Things back then were much simpler, with less worries about plans for leisure, and more worries about the next power cut. Inverters weren’t as common as they are now either. Primitive yes, but that was 90’s Mangalore for you.30 nostalgic photos of manipal 1997 to 2001

Just the other day, at a circulating library, I overheard a kid pleading with his mother to buy him a Chhota Bheem Comic. Chhota Bheem? I know right, kids these days! You gotta pity them! I turned around, and I saw him there, in his clothes from Lilliput, with shoes from Reebok (forget Reebok, having shoes with glowing lights was the it thing in my time) , holding a Baskin Robbin’s cone in one hand, and a fast track watch on the other (I still remember having a Dash! watch was all the rage back then). His much harried mother, holding bags from Lifestyle (whatever happened to children’s corner?) trying to keep him in check while furiously typing some message on her BlackBerry while her sunglasses threatened to fall any moment from their perch on her forehead.

I would remember how this was a sign of opulence back in the 90’s. Now, it’s just a sign of the burgeoning upper middle class. The Mangalore as I knew it was dying. And a pseudo modern Mangalore, with all it’s small town pettiness, with an increasingly communal atmosphere and tensions underneath all that cosmopolitan attitude is replacing it.

Mangalore is dying folks. Mangaluru is replacing it. Pay homage.


  1. I’m born and brought up in Mangalore too. This post brought back fond memories.. There are many areas of Mangalore still untouched though.. For example, Car Street.. 

  2. Absolutely loved the article… I belong from Mangalore, but have stayed there for only 3 yrs long back. Having stayed in Udupi, i ve been a constant visitor having almost my whole family there.. I can relate to the changes u say… It’s not at all like the times then… I rmbr havin no malls… and the only cool thing was Joofris!!!!! Even the car street doesnt look the same anymore… but stil is one of the places which reminds of the good old times..! Everything is changing… but the spirit of the kudla ppl will always b d same! 🙂

  3. I’m from mangalore too!!! My friends keep asking me why i travel every weekend there… The point is its my home town and i love it there. Whatever the changes might be, I still love it and look forward to the weekends! 🙂 

  4. V v well said! But then again u r talking of a mangalore which had zee, cartoon network…. I grew up in a DD mlore. No surprises y I dread going back to my Kudla n not being able to recognize it! Flyovers?!!!! OMG! Btw zoofrees n saibeen were cool when I was there!

  5. “The roads here were motorable, and the vehicles so scarce that I remember people would play cricket on the streets without the fear of being run over. ” Indeed!
    There’s hardly anything left unchanged since back from the 90’s.Beautifully written article i must say.

  6. RIP Mangalore indeed. You reminded me about all the things that have gone missing. Sadly there is not much we can do about this. Change is upon us, we need to live with it. Sigh.

  7. Just loved d way u hv put it up…indeed manglore is changing ..u forgt to mention saibeen complex d only mall for mangloreans for almost 20plus years..:-)

  8. WOW!!! Dude, I bow down in respect… Amazingly written. Its good to know that there are like minded people still in Kudla who treasure all these nostalgia with such clarity and moreover present it with such brilliance that it just warms ones heart even though so far from home. 🙂
    Mangalore is going all commercial and that aint any suprise; change is constant and no one can fight that. Just embrace the change and adapt to fit in; it’ll make life simple…. 🙂

  9. Loved every word of this article. I’d still prefer hanging out at the umpteen number of beaches,  the Netravathi or Gurupura river OR idling at the Sulthan Batheri fort over a visit to those malls. You and Aravind Adiga have a lot in common – lamenting over the sorry state of Mangalore, post-liberalization! Great work 🙂

  10. 10 years ago traffic would move smoothly at the Hampankatta signal and towards railway station during peak hours. Now try crossing from Milagres to KS Rao Road at 5pm in under ten minutes on any given day! A few months back I nearly missed the Matsyagandha express to Mumbai just because of a traffic hurdle in Attavar which led to a pile up of traffic from the railway station right upto Casa Grande. Beat that! 🙁 Mangalore has indeed changed in terms of traffic volumes atleast. 

  11. Hi, found this article strange. strange because it compares Mangalore with what it was in the 90’s and  that 90’s was “once upon a time”, whereas for me who graduated in Mangalore in 1974 and PG in 1977, the 90’s was a fairly recent era.
    . By the 90’s the Ambassoders and Fiat cars, the Bullet ,Yezdiand Rajdoot motorcycles and the Lambretta and vespa scooters had been overshadowed by the Maruti, Chevorlet, ceilo and other  cars . and honda and suzuki and yamaha two wheelers.Just imagine how nostalgic it would be to think of Mangalore with only two brands of cars and three brands of two wheelers , all zipping about with modified handlebars and multi coloured paints. Before Ideal ice cream came into prominence it was the “Rayans ice cream parlour” on Milagres building opposite Bata shop at Hampankatta..
     Even then Mangalore ,back in the seventies ,was a Hep city .Do u know that the Komals RED ROSE cream parlour, had a JUKE Box with , both Hindi and English numbers

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