Badayakandy Basheer is the founder of Gudhaam – a café and an antique store – located in Gujarathi Street, Kozhikode. Along with being an heritage enthusiast, he is also an avid traveller, having visited 31 countries so far.
In Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel Around the World in 80 Days, Passepartout, one of its many interesting characters, remarks on one occasion – “I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new”.
Which is exactly what Badayakandy Basheer did for nearly half of his life – travel and see the world as much as he could. And along the way, collect not just experiences and memories but heritage too.
Entering Gujarati Street, located opposite the Calicut beach, in itself is like taking a heritage walk. There’s such rich history and culture associated with the place, lined with many smaller streets. Gudhaam rests serenely in between other old buildings, almost camouflaged yet hard to miss because of the beautiful artwork at the front.
And when you climb up the stairs of Gudhaam, you are practically about to take a journey through those experiences and collections of Basheer. It’s a captivating blend of many things, best described by the place’s social media bio – “A place where antiques, art, music, books and food meet.”
Thalassery, Kozhikode and Other Memories
Basheer’s earliest memories of travelling are with his mother when he was 5 or 6. “I was born in Thalassery, the youngest of all the children. And I would accompany my mother on her local train journeys to Kozhikode, to visit our relatives,” he reminisces.
His love for heritage and antiques started during those childhood days in the large, combined family. He recalls the elders in the household making travels to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma during those days and bringing back artefacts.
Basheer’s relationship with Kozhikode started in the early 1970s when he shifted there for college education. He left for UAE in 1976 – his first taste of world travel – and in 1978 he joined the Accounts Department of the Dubai Police, a job he held for the next couple of decades.
He got married in 1982, which was coincidentally when his antique collection also really started, Basheer muses. “I was taking a stroll through the streets of Thalassery a day after my wedding and came upon an antique shop. There was this old gramophone there that fascinated me. I bought it along with a couple of other items, my very first antique shopping!”
“My journeys really started after turning 40.”
Basheer resigned from his job with the Dubai police in 1996 to start a fabric trading venture with his brothers, which is practically when his journey around the world commenced, he says. His first business trip was to Brussels, Belgium, to attend a trade fair – a fabric exhibition.
“Back in those days, there was a Schengen visa for travelling within Europe, with which you could travel up to 7 countries. And I travelled through Euro rail across the countries, visiting cities like Paris, Frankfurt, etc.”
After the trade fairs, he enjoyed visiting the art galleries and heritage museums and attending antique auctions. He was fascinated by how well-preserved these places of rich history were. But he holds a special fondness for the city of Venice, Basheer says smiling.
“The beauty of Venice, to me, lies in the fact it’s built on water. There’s no road network there, only canals. You have to commute by ferries and pedestrian crossing bridges,” he adds.
He travelled a lot in the 20 years since then and it became his passion collecting items, or “souvenirs” wherever he went, including within India. And whenever he visited the art cafes in places like Paris, Istanbul, Damascus, etc., he envisioned starting something like that back in Kerala.
The birth of Guddhaam to…
“This is a 160-year-old building that belonged to my wife’s family. They bought it from a Gujarati family, who used to conduct business here, around 80 years ago. It was then used as a warehouse over the years until the business came to a stop and it just stood here – a ramshackle,” Basheer says.
That’s when Basheer took it over and renovated the building, but mindful of doing so preserving the antiqueness of the structure. One can still recognise that same old architecture and design from outside, he points out, adding that he restrengthened and decorated the insides of the building procuring mostly antique wood and furniture.
And the dream he had had while visiting the streets, the cafes and the heritage museums around the world all those years finally came true – in the form of Gudhaam.
…the road taken
Gudhaam was thus adorned with the numerous antiques and valuable souvenirs Basheer had collected over the years. But credit also has to be given to several of his family members, Basheer notes, who generously gave many items of heritage value recognising his passion. Apart from the household items and furniture, one of his most valuable possessions is a 110-year-old Underwood typewriter that belonged to his uncle, B. Pocker Sahib, a Member of Parliament once.
There are fascinating stories behind how he came upon many of these antiques, like a jukebox – another one of his beloved belongings. Basheer cannot stop smiling as he recalls that story, that starts with how he fell in love with the item as a young kid to the day he finally obtained it a few years ago, with a bit of luck and coincidence playing equal parts.
Basheer’s mind brims with newer ideas all the time for Gudhaam. He intends to introduce a reader’s corner as well near the café, which he plans to fill with books donated from the well-wishers.
“I have visited around 31 countries by now,” Basheer reflects. Being a frequent traveller to the United States meant that he covered several surrounding it by cruise, especially the Caribbean Islands. He has travelled inside South America also quite a bit, with Chile being one of his favourite locations.
The sexagenarian wound up his active business in Dubai around 10 years ago, settling down in Kerala. It has just been personal travels since then, he says, accompanied by his wife.
“I have travelled quite a bit…” Basheer trails off, all of his experiences and memories, seeming to be captured in those six words.