A symbol of Kozhikode’s multi-cultural tradition, the famed Copper Bazaar in the city has seen traders from Goa flourish in the sector for more than 100 years. But the past four decades have been particularly tough for them, with steel and aluminium taking over a large chunk of the market share.
Now, on either side of the street, there exist only five Goan traders, who were once part of an influential majority in the native copper industry scene. As none of their children are interested in taking up metal trade, these traders feel all at sea.
“This copper street was virtually our turf, with over 26 traders from Goa. It was our forefathers who popularised the trade and created a steady market here for products made of copper, brass, and bronze,” says Dominic Savio, who runs his grandfather’s establishment N.B. Carrasco Sons on the street.
K. Balakrishnan, his senior-most craftsman who had the opportunity to work with many elderly Goan traders, attests that the venture had been very profitable then, with increasing demand and the minimal competition from other metal industries.
Leo D’Souza, who runs F.A. D’Souza and Son says that a major portion of the products are now being made by native labourers as most of the skilled Goan workers left the city in search of greener pastures. “The workers and the traders used to live in small rooms on the street itself to concentrate on the trade and design products according to market requirements,” he says.
Proprietors of the other three remaining copper dealers of Goan origin — L.C. Fernandez, Sebastian D’cunha, and Johnny Fonsecca — too share their concern over the minimal chance to flourish in a changing market scenario. A major setback, according to them, is the cultural change, where a bronze lamp or pitcher is not a must item for many of the new-generation households. Similarly, the purchase of copper vessels as part of traditional rituals associated with marriages and other functions of Hindu families too have come down largely, they say.
“The rest of the time, we simply hope for the best to keep ourselves going,” says Sebastian D’Cunha.