This Id, Sharjah will not taste the same without E.P. Kalanthan Koya. The city’s unofficial juice-exponent passed away two days ago. His small shop bordering the iconic Sweet Meat Street (S.M. Street) is closed.
Worshippers from Pattalappalli, bookworms from the Kozhikode Public Library, and shoppers thronging S.M. Street would converge on the narrow footpath in front of Kalanthan’s — as the shop was popularly known — to get a taste of the exotic flavours Koya served them with artistry. It was tradition.
Koya died on the evening of October 14 after a short illness at age 85. On Wednesday, the patrons of Koya wore a woebegone expression. Disappointment lay thick in the air around the shuttered shop as visitors to the city, most of whom did not know of Koya’s death, were seen hanging around aimlessly.
For them, the Sharjah, the butter fruit, and the chikku shakes — heady concoctions of fruit, milk, and sugar — will never taste the same without the patriarch. Sharjah is made of plantain while butter fruit is another name for avocado, and chikku is zapota.
On usual days, Koya, dressed in white, would be seen lording over a beehive of ‘juice addicts’ from his fruit-laden counter. He would at times display his still formidable talent of peeling oranges in a jiffy. He would mix and match the fruits to find his taste.
His blend would shake conventions to appeal to the essential Kozhikkodan, known to be finicky about his food and drink.
Since 1965, when Koya started by serving Sarbath, a syrupy mix, and slowly but tastefully graduated to shakes and fruit cocktails at his humble shop, the city has embraced his recipes as its own.
His customers and old-timers say Koya’s was the first shop to introduce a mixie in his shop. He introduced the concept of ‘pure juice’ that has no water. He experimented with milk as an additive to juice, and won the hearts of his customers.
But it was not the juice alone that drew the heavy flow of customers to his shop for the past 48 years. It was the man. “There is a sink outside the shop. My father used to say that if the customer is dissatisfied with the juice served, throw it into the sink in front of his eyes, do not take it inside the shop. Whatever you make, do it in front of the customer. He should see what you are giving him,” Usman Koya, his son, reminisced.
The man served them all, from celebrities to the rag picker, the latter often free of cost.
“There was one thing father taught us. Better to serve all equally and be part of their happiness than serve a few wealthy to make profit,” Mr. Usman said.
In his time, Koya had seen some interesting moments. “Once we had this boy from Balussery who wanted to take our juice to Dubai where he had a small job. It was for his boss. The boy said he would probably lose his job, if he did not take it. We decided to freeze the juice inside his flask. He called us when he reached there. The mission was a success,” Mr. Usman recounted one.