Read Part 1: Sri K.T. Appanna and The Hindu Coffee Club
Sri S.G. Sastri
At times, our Independent Board would carry on its business till 8 PM. On one such day, my friend from Mysore, Sri S.G. Sastri visited the Hindu Coffee Club and sat down on a bench at the edge of the wall. I didn’t notice that. Back then, Sri Sastri was still a student. He was pursuing some higher course in the Indian Institute of Science. It was summer. The whole of Bangalore was reeling under heat because rains hadn’t arrived on time that year. Then, someone in our group said, “Sri H. Ramayya has arranged for the Parjanya mantra[i] chanting at the Rameshwara Temple in Chamarajpet.” In my childishness, I said, “Will the mango drop from the tree just because we chant a mantra?”
Sri S.G. Sastri heard this. He stood up and roared, “What does that mean? Do you even know what you said? What do you know?” Realisation struck me then…about who this man really was. I went near Sri Sastri and said, “What Mr. Sastri? Since when did you develop such affinity towards Mantras?” Sri Sastri said, “Hey! If you speak loosely in public in this fashion, you’ll get thrashed.” This meeting ended in lighthearted laughter.
Modern Hindu Restaurant
Sri K.T. Appanna shifted the Hindu Coffee Club again. This time, he moved his business establishment to Ahmed Buildings located at Doddapet. He renamed it to “Modern Hindu Restaurant.” After three or four years of doing business here, he had to go quiet for a brief period. Hundreds of people who had eaten in his Hindu Coffee Club on credit had promptly forgotten to settle their bills. As a result, he had to undergo a loss of tens of thousands of rupees. I wrote numerous reminder letters to his debtors with my own hand. Today, we read news reports of several ministers who have conveniently forgotten to pay taxes. Sri Appanna’s customers belonged to that category of forgetfulness.
Later, when Sri Vishweshwariah became the Diwan, Sri Appanna opened the Modern Hindu Hotel at the junction where Seshadri Road and the northern end of Balepet converged. This business garnered liberal encouragement from Sri Vishweshwariah and received Government support. Sri Vishweshwariah’s vision and resolve was as follows: “Cities are now growing rapidly in our country. Industries and businesses are increasing. The population of migrants to Bangalore is also increasing. Thus, in such cities, hotels and restaurants that serve hygienic and tasty food are absolutely essential for the convenience of travelers. The Government has to encourage the growth of this industry.”
The Modern Hindu Hotel was located in the house of Councillor Srinivasa Iyengar. He also lived in the same premises for some time. In those days, the population of that locality was quite sparse. The hotel was also close to the railway station. And so, since its inception, Sri Appanna’s establishment steadily grew with each passing day. It celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1958 (i.e. 1898-1958) by hosting a grand feast. Sri Vishweshwariah graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and expressed his happiness.
Just like how Sri Appanna was endowed with honesty and competence in his business and became successful, he remained content in his exemplary conduct and genuine Bhakti. He was a great practitioner of Dharma and was equally generous. No day passed in his family without some kind of Bhajan, Puja or Harikatha.
A Swamiji of the Kudali Matha would often stay at Sri Appanna’s home. People used to flock in large numbers to seek the Darshan of and listen to the discourses of this Swamiji. On such occasions, Bhajans and other auspicious activities would be carried out in Sri Appanna’s home. A few devotional songs sung during such Bhajan programmes have stayed in my memory.
dattātreya śrīpadmanābham praṇatosmi ||
ārati beḻaguve sadguru śrī brahma caitanya ||
adbhuta vigraha amarādhīśvara
agaṇita guṇagaṇa amṛta śiva ||
In this manner, one of the organisations that was instrumental in spreading the tradition of Bhajans in Bangalore was that of Sri Kudali Swami under the patronage of Sri Appanna.
No student or seeker who came to Sri Appanna returned empty-handed. Sri Appanna generously donated food and clothes to scores of people.
Other Food Establishments
Another popular establishment in the hotel industry about forty or fifty years ago[ii] was Annayyappa’s eatery located in Balepet. Sri Annayyappa originally hailed from the Devarayasamudra region of the Kolar district. His hotel distinguished itself for two dishes: Poori in the morning and spicy Poha in the evening. Such was the fame of his spicy Poha that people who travelled out of Bangalore would inevitably stop by his hotel, pack Poha and only then proceed onward. You paid one rupee and got a huge cone full of spicy Poha; twenty-five paise would get you a smaller cone. Passengers would put the larger cone in their trunk—to take it to their family back home. The smaller one would be consumed right there. Other finely-honed gastronomic connoisseurs would pay two Annas and buy just the deliciously-roasted curry leaves; another two Annas for the equally deliciously-roasted cashews. This business yielded a gross of about hundred and fifty rupees each day.
The other famous eatery that emerged in later years was the Udupi Hotel in Chickpet. It was located in a house that belonged to Diwan Krishnamurthy. I have heard the roadside rumour and complaint that the Diwan had let out his house to a hotel. However, it became a huge convenience for a large number of people. It became akin to a home for those who lived alone. This selfsame hotel was the residence of our music Vidwan, Sri Ananta Sastri.
Perhaps the most ancient among all these eateries was the sweetshop of Sri Mandhata. I have heard that he was a Brahmin originally from Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps a bunch of people had arrived at Bangalore-Mysore from the Prayag region. Among such folks, Sri Harirama Mishra worked in the old printing press (Town Press).
The Present Condition
Of late[iii], the hotel industry has grown to a massive extent in our country. Heavy industries and factories are taking birth every other day. This is the consequence of speed.
But more importantly, the Government itself has become a Hotelier. It seems that in countries like Switzerland, there exist Government-run hotels. It seems that the Government earns revenue from them. Certain powerful sections in our political system have begun to ask, “why don’t we emulate them?” Thanks to their influence, the Government has entered this business. Only experience will tell us whether this is a force for the good or it is a defect.
For now, we can only note this much: at the present time, in the selfsame Western countries, questions have risen whether it is advisable for the Government to get into the hotel business or the tourism industry in general. From the perspective of revenue to the Government, it might be beneficial. However, what is the damage this will cause to social harmony in their own countries—this is the ongoing debate in such countries.
Any business that is carried on with a sense of balance and proportion will result in some good. However, if this business exceeds all boundaries, if it is directly in the hands of the Government, even that little good will be lost and might even result in harm.
- Parjanya mantras are chanted in order to invoke and appease the Rain Deity
- Roughly between 1920-30
- Roughly in the 1960s-70s period