Saturday, July 18, 2009
the friendly 'hotelwallah'
kamats are well known in mumbai.for their restaurants which serve idlis,dosas,vadas and other delectable south indian snacks at moderate prices.their cafes are neat and clean and very functional.when i first came to mumbai fifty years ago upon my father's transfer,my first visit to a udipi joint was near sir p m road in fort area where we lived.i liked the taste of the masala dosa and filter coffee and spent many memorable hours there during my first year in mumbai then called bombay.
in those days,television had not arrived.we followed the cricket test matches on the radio.after returning from st.xavier's college,i would rush to the 'udipi',order some vadas and idlis and hot south indian coffee and listen to the cricket commentary.there was always a huge crowd outside;they were the cricket fans who preferred to stand out and cheer loudly when some indian cricketer scored a boundary or a six.there would also be a deafening silence when team india lost a wicket. later we moved to backbay reclamation near churchgate. this time my favourite was 'satkar', another udipi restaurant.like mcdonalds in usa, kamats and other udipi restaurants have built a loyal clientale around them thanks to their quick and efficient service,neat and functional ambience and consistently good food and importantly reasonble rates.the udipiites are an intelligent and industrious lot.my father was very close to the tma pai family,the founders of the syndicate bank.i realised quite early in age that they are very shrewd businessmen and no wonder that they have excelled in banking and finance and in the hospitality industry too.
last monday when i was on a flight to bhubaneshwar,i happened to meet v v kamat,the pioneer of ecotel hotels in india. i had met him earlier once in a similar situation.we recognised each other and exchanged some pleasantries.we also exchanged our business cards and expressed our desire to remain in touch.at the back of his card in a small pouch lay some tulsi(holy basil) seeds.that conveys his care for the environment. kamat is a very modest,self-effacing,kind and helpful man. he is proud of his creation of the 'orchid' chain of hotels and rightly so.one who had the chutzpah to tell the chairman of the oberoi group of hotels that one day he would excel them.that needs tremendous self-confidence,courage and an ability to lead,motivate and see things through.
when i returned to mumbai,there was a pleasant surprise awaiting me in my office.it was a nice letter from v v kamat's office enclosing the book(seventh edition) he has written which i am currently reading. the book is titled-'idli,orchid and will-power!', translated from the original by sanjit narwekar. it's a book by a self-made man,his trials and tribulations,the support from his parents and his better half,the sibling rivalry that took him very close to committing suicide. surely i'll come across many more such anecdotes in his interesting book written in a simple and breezy style.
we see environmental degradation all around.we need many more kamats to make people sensitive to nature and not to treat it with disrespect.what you give you will get back.if you preserve and protect the environment,the globe will be a better place to live in. then the efforts of people like v v kamat and his ilk will not go in vain. we owe this to the coming generations.