SK Pottekkat’s lover was not a woman, but the 500-year-old ‘Mittai Theruvu,’ or ‘sweets street,’ in Kozhikode, which he immortalised through his words. The street is the protagonist in his 1960s novel Oru Theruvinte Katha — a steady presence in a literary land where many quirky characters come and go. It is said that if a writer falls in love with you, you will be immortalised. These words bear witness to a glorious love story on SM Street, along with a statue of Pottekatt.
Mittai Theruvu, which has been in existence for 500 years, is likely one of Kerala’s oldest markets or trading hubs. SM Street, with its narrow cobblestone pavement and old halwa shops, holds a special place in the hearts of most Kozhikode residents. This theruvu connects many nostalgic stories and historical events, forming a city’s collective memories. The street was named ‘Sweet Meat Street’ by the British after the sweet halwa resembled a cut of meat, prompting the name ‘sweetmeat’ to stick, and it was eventually shortened to SM Street. Many of the old halwa shops are still in operation, where you can get the best Kozhikodan Ghee Halwa in a variety of colours.
A river that gave birth to a street;
According to legend, a river once ran parallel to the street. It was customary in the Malabar region at the time to pay respects to deceased family members by offering bali (a rice offering done on palm leaves). Balis are performed on full moon days as well as important festivals. People used to come to this river and offer bali under a Banyan (Aal maram) or Fig tree (Athi maram) during Onam, Vishu, and other auspicious months.
It is believed that the banks of the River Adyam in Kozhikode had dried up due to the construction of railway lines which led to sweet shops springing up along the banks. The area now known as Athi Kottaparambu was once a place where people would stop after offering bali and buy fried banana chips or sweets.
Gujaratis and textile shops;
The Parsi prayer hall and burial ground that still exist on SM Street are part of Kozhikode’s rich Parsi heritage. When Gujarati traders arrived from Ahmedabad centuries ago, the Zamorin ruler gave them land to set up shop near the palace compound. Even before the Gujarati community’s arrival, the Zoroastrian or Parsis had already come to Kozhikiode and started different businesses.
The Parsis who settled in Kozhikode practised different businesses. Some started ice plants, others were bankers and so on. Today, a lone family keeps the city’s Parsi links alive. Darius P Marshall and his family are as Malayali as they can get. They also continue their Parsi customs and speak the language fluently. SM Street has so many Gujarati stores. Right next to the street is a Gujarati street dedicated to these vendors from the north. Be it Gujaratis or the locals, they all sell Kerala snacks such as ghee halwa and banana chips on the street. For nearly a century now, Arya Bhavan has been serving traditional south Indian meals and tiffin to its loyal customers on SM Street.
Huzur Cutchery was the headquarters of the East India Company and later the Malabar Presidency. The Huzur, who was a collector appointed by the British, would hear complaints from this hall. Throughout the 1800s and the early 1900s, the cutchery was shifted back and forth in Kozhikode. This building was later demolished and in its place stands a mammoth office building of the LIC.
Protests and freedom struggles;
During the freedom movement, the iconic road saw many protest marches. Protest marches to the Huzur were led by several prominent Kozhikode freedom fighters, including Kozhipurath Madhava Menon, AV Kuttimalu Amma, E Moidu Moulavi, an Islamic scholar and Indian National Congress leader, and others. Decades later, protests and gatherings for important social causes can still be seen on the road.
SM Street now only has relics of its former self. The majority of SM Street is now occupied by new storefronts, including gift shops, stationery, and knick-knack shops. The road has also seen numerous facelifts and reopenings over the years, the most recent being in 2017. However, the street is still well-known for selling vintage trinkets and even old spare parts that may not be found elsewhere.