The Mahajankatti family from Karnataka loves the city so much that they plan to settle down here forever
By Shevlin Sebastian
In February, last year, Dherendra Mahajankatti, 42, who was working in Kotak Mahindra, was transferred to Mumbai after seven years in Kochi. When he landed in Mumbai, he says, “From Day 1, I felt disillusioned. I never liked the city. It was crowded and hectic, and there was no natural beauty.” People had no emotions or sentiments, he says, and were only interested in making money.
Ten days later, he had to make a lightning trip to Kochi to clear up some official work. When he arrived on a Jet Airways flight and stepped on the soil of Kerala, tears of joy fell from his eyes. “When I saw the land and the greenery, I felt so contented, happy and secure,” he says. “I felt as if I was back home. Every moment of the 25 kilometre journey, from Nedumbassery airport to Palarivattom, was so memorable. Words cannot describe the beauty of this state.”
Nevertheless, Dherendra returned to Mumbai, because he had no other job. But he told himself, that ‘whatever happens, I must return to Kochi’. He repeated this thought to his wife Lakshmi, 35, on the phone but told her it would take some time to get another job.
Despite Dherendra urging his wife to stay on in Kochi, Lakshmi missed her husband so much, she decided to come. So, in May, 2007, she arrived in Mumbai with their daughter Siddhi, 9 and son, Shrikar, 4.
Like Dherendra, Lakshmi’s initial impression of Mumbai was also negative. “I found the place very dirty,” she says. Although later, she admitted, she did enjoy the energy of the city and the varied opportunities to do different kind of things.
Daughter Siddhi, 9, liked Mumbai for the first three months and then wanted to return to Kochi. “I love the waters off Marine Drive,” she says. “I love to see the boats. I like the red rice, because it is not a heavy food.” As for little Shrikar, he liked the big houses of Kochi and complained to his mother about the small flat they were living in Mumbai.
The Mahajankattis stayed in a 530 sq. ft. flat at Andheri, a far cry from the 1,200 sq. ft. flat they were staying in Padivattom. Within a few months, they would also be getting possession of a 1,600 sq. ft. Apple Town villa that Dherendra had bought at Kakkanad.
So, the family pined for Kerala, as they went on with their lives in Mumbai. But apart from Kerala’s famed physical beauty, did they like the people? “Yes,” says Dherendra. “Malayalis are gentle, crisp, polite and do not have a vulgar way of talking, as it is there in other states.”
But Lakshmi says that in her experience, Malayalis have a tendency to be rigid in their habits and customs. She gives the example of a dinner party she held recently where she had made pav bhaaji, golgappas and pudina pulao. “I felt disappointed when my Malayali friends just pecked at the food,” she says. “If it is rice and meat, they would happily eat away.”
Initially, Lakshmi found it difficult to adjust to Kochi because of the language barrier. She says that one day she had gone to buy kayam (asafoetida) at a store at Palarivattom. “I just could not explain what I wanted,” she says. “I told the shopkeeper, ‘Oil, mustard, it splutters’, but he could not understand. Then I looked around and spotted it.” Then he asked Lakshmi whether she wanted anything else and she said no, by using the Hindi word, ‘Bas’. “The shopkeeper immediately called a person standing nearby and asked him to show me the way to the bus stop,” says Lakshmi.
But now she can read, write and speak in Malayalam. “I can also sing Malayalam songs and my friends proudly show me off to their relatives,” she says. “They are thrilled I have become a Malayali.”
But, did these new ‘Malayalis’ experience the well-known Malayali tendency to indulge in ‘paara’ - the habit of plunging a knife into a person, while having a gentle smile on the face? “This is a human trait that exists everywhere,” says Dherendra. “I experienced it in Bangalore, in Ahmedabad and in many places in north India, except that they called it by another name: ‘politics’. So, when somebody is doing well, there is always an Indian tendency to bring him down.”
Meanwhile, after a relentless search, Dherendra finally got a job. He is now working as Assistant General Manager (Operations) in the real estate firm, Apple a day. The family returned to Kochi in November, 2007, just ten months after Dherendra had left.
He is the rare case of a non-Malayali, who loves Kochi so much that he gave up a lucrative job and moved back.
So, will the Mahajankattis from Karnataka settle down permanently in Kochi?
“I will be staying here forever,” says Dherendra in a firm voice. Seeing her husband’s look of determination, Lakshmi, the ever-dutiful wife, says, “I guess, we will live out our old age in our villa.”
(Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express, Kochi)