Pic: Bellur RK
A board found below Adyar Ananda Bhavan, 6th Cross, Malleswaram.
Simple question: What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?
File photo of Vidwan Kunnakudi R. Vaidyanathan performing alongwith Ustad Zakir Hussain at Hotel Ashoka in Bangalore in 2001. The violin maestro died on 8th September night due to cardiac arrest. (Photo: RK)
Those were the days when I was freelancing for a student newspaper, The Student Mail, as a cartoonist cum reporter. The Editor called me to his cabin on a pleasant evening and asked me to make a cartoon for an article on NTR and Chandrababu Naidu. I showed him a few I had made about other stories. He liked them and told me to come up with a ‘sooper’ cartoon for the story.
I headed to my table when I heard him call me again from his cabin. He told me about a Jugalbandhi concert between Vidwan Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan and Ustad Zakir Hussain that evening. The venue was Ashoka Hotel. I jumped up in joy, as I could not only get to hear two amazing musicians, but also hear them talk. I immediately got ready to rush to the venue. Had a quick Coffee at the canteen, and reached Ashoka half an hour early on my red TVS-Champ. I entered an almost packed auditorium, with just a few seats empty. Got to know from the organisers of ‘Spandana’ that the musicians had already arrived. I managed to get a quick tete-a-tete with Vidwan Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan and Ustad Zakir Hussain.
Dressed in a flashy red and golden yellow top, Kunnakkudi started off in English, most of the time smiling and nodding to my questions and later spoke in Tamil. Adjusting the huge ring on his right ring finger, he told that he never differentiated between the classes and the masses. “I only know to entertain through music. I am what I am because of father’s blessings, mother’s love and most importantly, divine intervention.”, he said.
Ustad Zakir Hussain, who was attired in a hazel coloured kurtha and white pyjama, was animatedly talking about his experiences abroad to other journalists. I asked him how it feels to be one of the top Tabla players, and this was what he had to say: “I am still a student of Indian classical music. I am learning every moment. Every time I play with a classical musician, I learn new aspects of music. There are as many expressions as there are musicians, so it’s always learning time. So, that is what I am—a student driven to make more and more discoveries.”
I took their permission and clicked a few pictures.
A few minutes later, they were on the stage, enthralling the audience with beautiful numbers. Kunnakkudi had given a hundred odd exressions for all of us. After an hour, I decided to take a picture before heading to the office to finish the story. I could see a few flashes go here and there. Kunnakkudi had just then played an amazing raaga and the Ustad had gained rhythm. I went near the stage and adjusted my ‘Canon’ camera. Kunnakkudi even recognised me and kept smiling.
Not even a milli-second had ceased after I clicked, the flash had just disappeared, the Ustad stopped abruptly. And the stage freezed. But for Kunnakkudi’s smile, there were shell-shocked faces all over the stage. The Ustad shouted at me: “Who let you to take pictures? What are the organisers doing? Why don’t you guys enjoy the music? The flow is gone now. This is bad.” Kunnakkudi was still smiling. (See pic)
I felt like hanging myself. No one told me anything though. I saw a couple of organisers behind the stage, and they signalled me to stay cool. There was a hushed silence all around. I slowly went to the side of the stage, and in no time left the hall. As the door closed behind me, I could hear the tabla playing. And the violin maestro began the popular ‘Valliya Nayagane’, in Shanmukhapriya, which brought me again into the auditorium. I stayed on for the whole concert. Just for Kunnakkudi. And his mannerisms.
• Early today morning, visited Vidyarthi Bhavan for the first time after it got renovated.
• Got to know from the cashier that it can hold 15 seats more than earlier.
• Looks more spacious, and lot more light
• Time taken for renovation – 25 days
• Cost: shhhhh!
• Kesaribhaath taste has gone down drastically (tasted like some Rave paste). And at Seven in the morning, Idly-Sambhar already had a somewhat sour feel to it.
• That was when I cancelled my Masale Dose order. I was sure it can NEVER EVER BEAT CTR.
• Not at all surprised that the Malleswaram joint stood first in a contest conducted by The Times of India as the ‘King of all Dose outlets in Bangalore’. (actually, it can compete with any Dose outlet in the Chaturdashabhuvanas).
• Last Sunday saw a great rush at CTR (after many got to know of its existence through TOI). The Hippies to the Heppies were all there from early in the morning till noon ordering BMDs (Benne/Butter Masale Dose).
• The toothless old man, a regular at CTR for years, wearing Panche, white shirt and having the traditional white-red-white lines on his forhead, was shocked to see half naked girls hogging “Butter Masala Dosa” seated behind him! And one of them was exclaiming – “Oh my….Thizzz heaven, isn’t it?” for which our good old man smiled to himself, sipping his cup of hot filter Coffee, and thought – Lady, CTR is the HQ of the heavenly abode called Malleswaram.
Veena Stores (VS) is good, because a senior friend swears by it. In fact he and my other friend used to come all the way from Koramangala office to VS for the Idlis. Now my friend is working just a road away from VS, next to Aranya Bhavan. Heaven knows how many times he must have overtly or covertly (because he is the big boss in his office now) sneaked out to VS and eaten there.
I too have been to VS, but the quantity is too small for guys like me (Ravanana hottege arey kaasina majjige). Hence we used to devour in Janatha Hotel, whenever we were in Malleshwaram.There is also another hotel by the name Central Tiffin Room (Opposite Malleswaram Club). That has crisp Dosas. Of course the Dose in Vidyarthi Bhavan is mouth watering. We also have Dose camp in Jayanagar and other places.
In my college days, 1970-74, there was the Shanbag Hotel, near St.Joseph’s College which used to give at 70 paise a Rava Idli and 2 Uddina Vades. They were just delicious.
Later came Sapna Hotel on Brigade Road, which is now shifted to Residency Road, which had good Dosa and Idli.
D.V.G. talks about his Thindi habits, in his Jnapaka Chitrashale, wherein near Dharmarayana Gudi they used to have good mixture, sweet and coffee. I think the hotel is still there. I have eaten there, but I am not sure, if it is the same hotel DVG mentioned.
I still remember when a hotel near Netakallappa Circle in Basavangudi sold idlis for 5 paise each (Bellur says Idlis in his childhood days were 40 paise). I myself, as a young boy, have taken the parcelled Idlis many times.
Bangalore had and still has many good eating joints. Have hotte thumba thindi and burp or croak like a frog.
Till around late afternoon, the 21st day of December 2006 had nothing special to offer. But by early evening, my wife called and told she had won a prize in a contest conducted by Radio City. I was really thrilled to hear that.
After reaching home, myself, son and wife got ready and left for Radio City Studio, where we had to collect a ‘Pass’ in order to have a special dinner with renowned Film Directors. In the studio, my son was passed around from one RJ’s hands to another. RJs Mallika and Sunayana seemed really happy cuddling him. He got a few balloons for X-mas. Pictures were taken.
We collected the pass and went to Hotel Chancery, right next to the studio. The party was yet to begin. My son was happy walking in the pool-side and Cafeteria. He got a few chocolates and cakes for speaking to the Chefs. We were really enjoying the chill weather. The first to arrive was noted film director Girish Kasaravalli, followed by Playwright Girish Karnad. Need I say that both were dressed in an ethnic looking kurtha- pyjama. Then actress Jayamala, wearing a ‘bottle green’ traditional silk saree made the entry. (For a second my mind was transported to Sabarimala.) She had a young chap, whom she kept referring to as her hubby. (I couldn’t stop thinking about Tiger Prabhakar.) Actress Hema Chaudhari and Producer Vijayalakshmi Singh (Director SV Rajendra Singh Babu’s sister) accompanied by actor husband Jai Jagadhish, dressed in a coffee brown suit came later. Jai looked his usual smart self.
The cameramen clicked pictures as and when there were any new additions to the party. The drinks started trickling in. Most guests had a glass in hand. Director Shyam Benegal and actor Dattatreya joined later. My son was asleep with the evening getting colder by the minute. We started having an assortment of salads and the main course. Mid way, we were joined by RJs ‘Tunta’ Nanda, Bala and Saggy, who spoke to us for a long time. My son woke up after hearing a Rajkumar song playing in the background.
The menu had mostly South-Indian delicacies like Nimbehannu Chitranna, Utthappa, Anna-Saaru, Eerulli-Aalugadde Palya. Hot Jamoons were top class. The food was really delicious. There were a few North Indian and Non-Veg dishes which we ignored.
There was a senior person, dressed in a grey suit, who caught my eye. He was busy eating Jamoon with Ice cream. And I didn’t want to disturb him. What stood out in him was the Gandhi-topi that he was wearing with the suit.
Another person stood out in the crowd. He looked like a Japanese but was wearing a waist coat on a kurtha-pyjama. I learnt today morning after seeing his picture in The Hindu that he was the Canadian Film Director, Hunt Hoe.
It was quite late when we left the party. My son slept on the way home. Me and my wife were feeling nice after meeting and having dinner with some popular faces. Got to see most of the faces behind those wonderful voices which we hear on Radio City. To go back in time, it was on the 21st day of December 2000 that my wife, then my girlfriend, asked me, “Do you see me as your wife?” Thanks to her, the memorable evening was a welcome change for all three of us.
Like any other day, I get up early and leave for office after the usual morning duties. This is after I have given my son a quick bath, who is up earlier than his usual time today. Normally, he gets up after I reach office.
It’s literally cool to ride the bike in December. The street dogs, donkeys and cattles are busy hunting for some ‘fresh’ breakfast. Milkman and paper vendors are returning back after delivering the ‘starters’ for most families.
Riding, seeing all the busy activities in the morning, is fun. I have already reached Gandhi Bazaar and remember that I need to stop at Vidyarthi Bhavan because as per last week’s plan, myself and Vijay are to have breakfast here. He has been tempting me since a long time saying I need to eat the out-of-the-world ‘Sagu-Masale’ at Vidyarthi Bhavan. The place is full but we manage to get a table. As we settle down, I see the typical Vidyarthi Bhavan waiter bringing more than ten plates of Dose, one over the other, holding them with one arm stretched, just like a salesgirl shows a saree in ‘Saree House’.
For those who are not yet initiated to Vidyarthi Bhavan, this is one of the old charms of Bangalore. Tucked away in an old building amid the burgeoning commercial complexes on Gandhi Bazaar main road, this eat out could well be termed as Bangalore city’s earliest ‘Dose camp’. Founded in 1938, ‘Vidyarthi Bhavan’ means ‘Student’s eatery’, and was one of the best hotels and most affordable for students in those early years. That fact has fortunately not changed until today! Starting from a measly 10 paise in the good old days nearly 70 years ago, a ‘Dose’ today costs just Rs 15. A hot pipping ‘Masale Dose’ straight from the ‘Kaavli’ (utensil used for making Dose) with melting butter on it is the specialty of the Vidyarthi Bhavan. It has generated so much of interest and enthusiasm that film director Mahesh Bhatt has aired a two-minute documentary about this tunnel-shaped hotel on BBC!! It is a tiny restaurant almost lost in the bylanes of Gandhi Bazaar, but to find it one got to simply ask any passerby where “Vidyarthi Bhavan” is?! and chances are that the passerby may not only tell you the exact directions but may also join you for one of the best Doses in town.
We place our order and appreciate the pencil sketches of popular Kannadigas that adore the walls of Vidyarthi Bhavan. I can see Kuvempu, Masti, Aa.Na.Kru., Kailasam, U.R. Ananthmurthy, Karnad, Kambara and other literary and theatre giants who have made Kannadigas proud.
To begin with, we have an Idli. Vidyarthi Bhavan doesn’t give Chutney to go with it. Instead the Idli is drowned in hot Sambhar. The smell is unlike the Darshinis’ that add an extra tinge of garlic.
As we have the last bite of Idli, the much awaited Sagu-Masale appears in front of us. Vijay tells me to check whether it is ‘Sagu-Masale’! So I open the Dose just a little (like how you open a page to see the previous page number) and make sure there is Sagu and not Palya. Unlike other hotels, Chutney isn’t provided along with Dose in Vidyarthi Bhavan. A waiter comes and pours Chutney next to the Dose. Enough for the whole Dose. (No second helping required.)
The Sagu-Masale looks tempting. The first bite suggests that ‘Sagu’ is not like the one we eat with Poori. This is more like the home made version yet different. There is no ‘Ghaat’ that we associate with a typical ‘Sagu’. It has ample amount of Coconut and vegetables. Till we finish the Dose, there is silence, which means that the food is really good!
Vijay tells me that the ideal time to visit this restaurant is before 8:30 in the morning (that was our appointed time, of course, fixed by the boss himself) when Gandhi Bazaar is still not that busy, and you can actually drive on the roads. I infact found a parking right in front of Vidyarthi Bhavan. One good thing about these simple and historic hotels is that food is tasty. They don’t have any new gimmicks and garish attractions like the ones the new hotels come up with. As I have experienced, the service is decent and the management see to it that cleanliness is maintained in the restaurant.
After we finish the Dose, a waiter hands us a tissue, which earlier would have been a piece of ‘Praja Vani’ to serve as the paper napkin. We wash the Sagu-Masale down with hot filter coffee. There is already a person waiting next to us, virtually booking his seat. We leave the place with a sense of tranquility and contentment.
There is real joy in having such breakfasts when you have good company. Vijay shared some real good trivia and anecdotes associated with the place, and about his own exploits, which I feel is a real motivational factor to eat at places like Vidyarthi Bhavan, Kenchamba Lodge, UKB, CTR and the like.
It’s almost lunch time now, but I can still smell that unique Sagu-Masale Dose from Vidyarthi Bhavan.
Weekdays: 6.30 am to 11 am & 2 pm to 8 pm
Sundays & Govt. Holidays: 6.30 am to 12 pm & 2.30 pm to 8 pm
32 Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore – 560004.
Tel: 080-2667 7588
First Stop – Vidhyarthi Bhavan