heels on fire: Mattancherry - Reflections of the irony of development

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mattancherry - Reflections of the irony of development

16th May 2006
Then an Ancient Trade Centre, Jewish Town and Now?

Mattancherry an island surrounded by the backwaters flourished as an ancient trade centre, attributing its popularity to its locational advantage. What was perceived, as Advantage-Mattancherry soon became the cause of the slow death of the town.

The spirit of this bustling ancient trade centre seems to have succumbed to “Development”. Roadways, the introduction of lorries and autos now non-hesitantly replace the boats and canoes that once plied across the channel. The Development cycle of Mattancherry still lets it hold onto the oldest Synagogue in the common wealth countries (built -1568 AD), but forbids it to hold on to the Jewish families.

(Presently there are believed to be only two Jewish families, the rest have sold property and migrated to Israel). Closed doors and windows in unusual happy, bright colours eerily symbolise this paradox of this development. The Development cycle did not allow for Mattancherry to hold on to the spice trade, but welcomed replacements
by more lucrative options like tourism. The shops originally run by the Jews are now run by Kashmiris- probably refugees displaced from their origins. Mattancherry- a heritage precinct has left us questioning the responsibilities of development.

Can development mean displacing progressive societies and freezing a city in time for tourists to come and see? Why was this gap between the old and new not bridged? How did development lead to the death of a progressive town? What went wrong or then did it go right !! Maybe you may want to tell us….

desmond, sudeep and tarika


At Tue May 23, 04:38:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Susan Philip said...

It is part of life. Called evolution. Better moneymaking opportunities give way to not-so-profitable ones. Stronger influences edge out older, weaker ones. Look hard and you'll find it all over the world. Not just Mattanchery. It's sad. Not fair at all. But it is part of the game, I suppose.
To look at the brighter side, tourism has ensured that the quaint town stays quaint. The old world charm intact. Dusty roads, ancient cafes, synagogues, mystery in the air.

Whatever issues there are, I hope you've realised one thing about our land and our people-there never is lack of colour. Or passion. Imbibe the bright hues,the intensity and passion- and you'll be irreversibly transformed.
Enjoy the ride.
God bless.

A proud malayali

At Thu May 25, 05:50:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Helen said...

when will u reach alappuzha district? will u be passing by cherthala?

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At Thu Dec 07, 12:29:00 PM 2006, Anonymous hema said...

hey i am an architecture student from chennai doing my final yr.i am taking up jew town and arab street for my thesis and my topic reads as 'THE REVIVAL & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOWNSHIP AND CONSERVATION OF ITS HERITAGE'.i would be really glad if u can help me out with any information of this place.and good luck for your venture...!!!


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