CHENNAI: He pours a cup of tea from one of the hundreds of flasks in his shop and pushes it towards this journalist. “This is important for your story,” says M Balasubramanian, who runs the Sharadha Agencies Flask Hospital on Kutchery Road, Mylapore. The shop was started by his father in 1961 and is filled with about 40 models of flasks from 200 ml to 5 litres. And every nook and corner you look, you will find it loaded with spare parts and various odds and ends.
Balasubramanian hands us the flask of tea and says, “Here, hold this flask. Can you feel the heat of the tea from outside? That means it’s no good,” he explains. He then pours the steaming beverage into a brand new flask and asks us to hold it. “You can’t tell whether it’s hot by feeling the outside of the flask? That means it’s perfect!”
The bachelor who stays in KK Nagar goes on and on about politics and cricket and shifts back to flasks ONLY when he has to. “One customer who flew to Australia later called me and said the water he had kept in the flask was still hot when he landed!” he beams.
Big companies, office-goers and people with small kids are some of his customers. His days are busy — he meets 20-30 customers a day. “Apart from coffee, tea and water, people use flasks even for sambar and rasam,” he exclaims. Coffee can be kept in the flask for a maximum of 4-6 hours, after which it loses its taste.
Then as if it were too much, he goes back to the glory days of cricket with Kapil Dev and Kris Srikkanth for a while, before leaving us with a working knowledge of flasks. “The flasks work on the mechanism of vacuums. They suck out all the air between the layers of the container, and this is how it keeps the liquid inside warm or cool,” he explains. The smaller the flask, smaller the vacuum and therefore, lesser the time it can keep the liquid warm.
“Cello and Eagle are the top brands today. Even now, if you order a batch of Eagle flasks, you get them only a week later,” he says, as a customer walks in with an emergency — he was leaving for Tirupathi with his child that night and he needed the flask to keep water hot for his baby. “I’ll give it to you by tonight,” promises Balasubramanian, as he rummages through his scattered tools to pick up the right parts.
(Call Sharadha Flask Hospital at 24985339)