The young talent of the city have been migrating for better prospects in life. What has to be done to make them stay back?It is time the city persuaded young talent to stay back for it to regain its vibrancy.

Kozhikode, once known as the intellectual and cultural hub of Malabar, is losing its young intellectual capital. It is time the city persuaded young talent, from entrepreneurs to artists, to stay and regained its yesteryear vibrancy.

While a few opt to stay back or even return, the majority still prefer to grab their degrees and leave town.

A cross-section of personalities based in Kozhikode here speak on what the city lacks and how it can adapt to woo back its young minds.

Debhashis Chatterjee, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, believes that change starts in the corridors of learning. “Educational institutions here have to welcome people from different parts of the country to come and learn. This encourages an openness of mind and high-end exchanges. Other than one or two educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Management and National Institute of Technology (Calicut), other institutions largely cater to the local population,” he says.

He says the city continues to have its head turned towards the past. “No-one thinks of planning how the city should be in 2025. Political masters, chosen for their views on immediate local issues and not with an eye on the future, remain myopic. Elections are meant to win future generations. The planning of the city for the future should involve visionaries, poets, artists. The city should invest some time for the future,” Prof. Chatterjee says.

Anjali Menon, film-maker and scriptwriter, agrees with Mr. Chatterjee that the city should look at carving out cultural spaces. Lopsided growth through high-rises and multiplexes will not keep its young minds from straying out. It may require a bit of Mohabbat to keep them back.

“The city hardly has social spaces for interaction, which are usually found in places that value their culture. Museums, art galleries, theatre spaces, parks, play areas, artist arenas can all play a role in such cultural exploration and interaction. We do have some museums, but they are hardly even known to the public and are therefore not visited by most,” Ms. Menon says.

As the scriptwriter of the essentially ‘Kozhikkodan’ film Ustad Hotel , she describes Kozhikode as a “town-not-in-a-hurry-to-be-a-city.” For her, this feature adds to the city’s charm. “But I do find that the bulk of the people may not be in touch with the culture that is truly ‘Kozhikoddan.’ Instead they are moving towards a homogeneous culture driven by media, which most often lacks roots and identity,” she adds.

 N. Srikanth, classical dancer and disciple of Padma Subrahmanyam, says his move to Kozhikode began as a culture shock.

“For someone who moved from Chennai, a city surrounded by music and culture all through the year and any point of time, I find that this city needs more festivals to encourage and motivate youngsters. Actual value of an art form is not instigated, main focus here is competition,” he says.

Sumesh Govind, proprietor of the Paragon Group hotel chain, speaks from hard-earned experience when he says the city is lukewarm to youngsters with passion.

“There is a huge lack of passion in this city. The people here are nice, friendly, but if something goes wrong with someone, all they do is sit back and watch rather than give a hand. This is a real turn-off for young passionate people trying to make it here. Thank God our people are passionate about food,” he said. Vivek Puthan Purayil, urban designer and architect, however does not agree.

As a visiting faculty member at the Department of Architecture, National Institute of Technology, Calicut, and Joint Secretary, Indian Institute of Architects, he says Kozhikode is benevolent towards youngsters who want to make a success of a start-up venture.

“Instead of saying what the city lacks, I would rather dwell on what the city has. It has for one, open-hearted people who are receptive to youngsters and do not consider us as a threat. There is social equity. When we started out we could walk into any senior architect’s office and access their drawings and plans. Here professionalism means something real. Competition is in terms of quality,” he says. But the urban designer says that as far as spatial development is concerned, this is a “closed city.” “Development of the city here means development of one junction,” he points out.

Arun Kumar T.K., formerly a research associate at the University of Minnesota, returned to Kozhikode, citing nostalgia as the reason. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Botany of Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College and an avid dog-breeder. “Livelihood issues are strong reasons for many to stick to places other than their hometowns even if they are nostalgic. I believe that a similar or even less-paid but decent job offer will bring many of us back home to ‘Calicut.’ Self-confidence after a lot of experience and exposure outside your city can give the self-assurance,” he says.