Dhanusu P is a busy man — and has always been, right from his childhood in Tirupalapandal village, Villupuram district where he toiled in the fields for a daily wage, to his army days. Even his retired life isn’t so retired — the former Naib Subedar, who quit service after 24 years, now runs a chaat shop and also supplies vegetables for IIT-Madras hostel.
After noting down pages and pages of vegetable requirements to IIT hostel, Dhanusu is finally free to talk, but not for long. “Army is like a school where the syllabus is discipline. From the shoes you wear to your haircut, everything has to be perfect. It’s in my blood now,” says the 65-year-old, who doesn’t look a day older than 50.
His last posting was in Pune in 1997 and he has won several awards. “This one was for long service, this one was for hard work and honesty...” He shows his medals with a sense of longing — perhaps 24 years was not quite enough! While in the army, he studied hotel management. After retirement, he juggled several jobs at once. In the morning, he worked for RBI; in the evening, he worked as a security guard; the following morning, he would go back home, cook 300 chapathis with his wife and deliver it to RBI. He was working round-the-clock. “I get a lot of energy from keeping myself busy,” he says.
Coming from an economically backward household, Dhanusu recalls that he did not tell his parents that he had been selected for the army because he knew they wouldn’t approve. “One month after I joined, I wrote a letter home. The army has given me everything. I was able to marry off my three sisters,” he beams.
However, the same army also kept him away at a crucial time. “My mother passed away and by some mistake, the telegram was not delivered to me. I couldn’t even perform her last rites,” he recalls the only dark spot in an otherwise satisfactory military career.
But he has no regrets. “People here in Taramani really doubt if I’m retired,” he laughs.
What keeps him going, he says, is perfection in whatever he does. Even in the army, he worked in such a way that “no one should point a finger” at him. This perfection has earned his chaat shop — aptly named ‘Indian Chaat and Soup’ — a huge customer base. “The other day, a woman came and told me that she had never had such tasty pani puri or soup in her life. There’s a person with disability who comes on his tricycle all the way from Koyambedu just to eat my chaat. People come from as far as Medavakkam,” he says. “If you don’t have `1 or `2 change, I just let it go. But if someone says he’s very hungry but has no money, I still give him something to eat. I just want to be an example. I strive to be one people can look up to.”
For bulk orders (100 numbers and above), call Dhanusu at 9840335623.
Bond Over Food
Dhanusu enjoys dishing out recipes to women who visit his shop. “That pudina chutney is so tasty! How do you make it?” are the kinds of queries he gets. Hotel management helped me go a long way, he says, adding that he has observed that there is one thing in a common love that army officers and women share — food!