Revisiting Beypore Sultan

Beypore: Mouth of river Chaliyar and new fishing harbor

Beypore or Bepur is one of the ancient port cities of Kerala only after Kodungallur or Muziris.  Even today it is the second port of Kerala after Kochi which came to prominence in the 15 century after the flood in river Periyar that ruined the fame of Vanchi or Muziris.  In terms of people and cargo handled this  jewel of Malabar is competing with Kochi and Mangalore in the west coast.

Beypore port gate: a canon towards right bottom

It is a unique estuarine port on the northern banks of river Chaliyar that takes the waters from Nilambur forests and empties into Arabian see between Beypore and Chaliyam.  This historic site that has attracted Romans, Chinese, Arabs and Sumerians for thousands of years having a continuous maritime history of atleast 1500 years is just 10km south west of the city of Calicut or Kozhikode.  It was also famous for Uru or Dhow or small trading vessels built with Nilambur Teak and coir.

Projecting into sea: New walkway on break-water in Beypore

But today the shipbuilding cottage industry is no more.  the space formerly occupied by the native marine architects and ship builders and master carpenters has literally vanished and a new fishing harbor has come up near the breakwater in the Beypore beach.  I remember visiting the place in 1996 while working briefly at a Muslim primary school in Iringallur near Kottakal, Malapuram.  The whole landscape had changed and today there are only miniature vessels for sale here.

A Tern in flight one km out-shore by the walkway at Beypore

In ancient times it was called Vaypur or Vadaparappanad with Parapan Angady and Kadalundi Nagaram (a port annex) to the south.  In the 18th century Tipu after capturing Malabar renamed it as Sulthan Pattanam.  In the second half of 20th century another brave warrior this time a warrior with a pen rather than a sword in hand popularized the place all over Kerala through letters as his second home.  He was hailing from Vaikom in Kottayam and later rooted himself in Malabar at Beypore and became well known as Beypore Sulthan.

Basheer’s worldly paradise: Beypore Sulthan’s home near Beypore town, Calicut

He is none other than Vaikom Muhamad Basheer the author of scores of best selling classics in Malayalam fiction.  It was my dream to meet the great Sufi at his second home in Beypore.  In my 1996 visit I could not make it.  But on April 2, 2011 I visited Beypore Sulthan’s home and met his life partner Fabi Basheer.  Though his physical presence is lacking the man of letters for all times is there in every waving green leaf and smiling little flower.

Basheer’s sufi-garden: Dearest Pavizhamally on the left which he nurtured with his own hands

We had a refreshing talk about Basheer and his life.  She showed me all the flowering plants and trees that were nurtured by Basheer with his own hands.  The rare trees are still there and are green and richly flowering.  The lonely Mangostin tree seems to be gloomy with dark but lush foliage in loosing its soul companion who used to sit beneath it in his old easy chair while playing his gramaphone and singing aloud occasionally.

Fabi Basheer before their home in Beypore

All the big ink pens, writing pads, easy chair, record player, writing table and portraits of Basheer are preserved hear for posterity by his son Anis Basheer.  The house is renovated without loosing the old ambiance and without harming the trees.  It is cool and green in the richly shaded plot.  I felt like entering a wet sacred grove as I was coming from Kozhikode city from the heat of National Theatre Festival 2011.

Basheer’s Sufi-sacred grove: Asoka, Champaka, Cinnamon and much more nameless plants…

The Basheer family must be appreciated for preserving the memories of the legendary writer and maintaining the house and green surroundings  for visitors and researchers all the time.  The flowering hibiscuses and other herbs planted by Basheer still welcome children and adults with a keen eye and sense  for the little wonders and delights of the world.

Basheer’s Mangostin: The living tree that lost its soul-mate but still giving shade and chill to others
Flowering shrubs and perennials and Fabi Basheer reading newspaper in the backdrop
Resonant shade: Loneliness of the Mangostin tree
Visible presence: Fabi beneath the portrait of Basheer at Beypore home


Kadalundi: A Community Reserve in Kerala

Gulls in Kadalundi estuary, 27 March 2011

The rich  blue and green mangroved estuary has always fascinated me on my train journeys through it between Kozhikode and Parappanangadi.  Kadalundi is a well known bird sanctuary and estuarine ecosystem in Malabar.  It is also known as the first community reserve in Kerala.

Small gulls inside the sanctuary in low tide

It has lured plenty of birds and birders over the years.  But unfortunately due to human interventions and pollution it is diminishing and vanishing from its former glory.  On 27 March 2011 at around noon I could see only a few species of migratory birds onthe sand banks of Kadalundi sanctuary though it was low tide.

Mangroved estuarine system of Kadalundi: A view from rail bridge

I was stealing some time from the National Theatre Fest at Kozhikode and visited the estuary briefly for a few hours at noon.  I had a panoramic view of the estuarine ecosystem from the old and dilapidated footpath on the rail bridge towards the west of the rail road.  I noticed a few Reef Egrets and a Grey Heron.  There were also a few Sand Plovers.  There was a congregation of small gulls towards the mouth of the estuary near the road bridge.

A Grey Heron in Kadalundi

In between the gulls and the mangroves there was a fairly large group of 20 Whimbrels wading in the mud and shallows.  This is the largest group I have ever seen in Kerala.  A few months ago I saw just 3 or 4 in Kumbala estuary.  According to Mr Arif who is doing his research in Kadalundi on migratory shorebirds the numbers and species had dwindled considerably.

Black and Brown-headed Gulls in Kadalundi

But compared to the diversity of species Kasaragod estuaries are far better than Kadalundi.  Kasaragod estuaries like Thalangara, Kumbala and Manjeswaram thrive in migratory birds even in this mid-summer.  It is high time that those precious ecosystems must be declared as protected sanctuaries.  The good work of forest department in Kadalundi needs to be extended to Kasaragod as well.

Whimbrels in Kadalundi 27 March 2011