NAGERCOIL: Balakrishnan deftly flips about five parottas on his huge tawa. The sizzle of the white, perfectly round mouth-watering parottas invites students into his shop on Rajapathai at Vadasery in Nagercoil. Balakrishnan and his wife Lakshmi run an eatery that sells parottas for just Rs 2.
“The price hasn’t changed in the past 12 years. We will not change it in the future as well, for it helps quell the hunger of students and the poor,” the childless couple said.
The 73-year-old proprietor started the shop about 30 years ago. Named ‘Amma’, most people travelling to and from Nagercoil make it a point to stop here for the cheap and delicious parottas. “We were even invited to participate in a TV show by a popular channel a few months back,” Laksmi proudly said. While the standard rate for one parotta in the area ranges anywhere between Rs 6 and 10, the couple thought it would be nice if they sold slightly small-sized ones at a lower rate.
The shop is closed only on Sundays. “As we are getting old, we sometimes close the hotel on Mondays too,” 66-year-old Lakshmi explained. Otherwise, they are open for business from 4.30 to 8.30 pm. “We want everybody’s hunger to be satisfied. So we decided to cap it at Rs 2, thereby making it easily affordable for many students in the area,” the duo added.
Hailing from Eraniel in Nagercoil, both of them grew up poor. “My mother had to raise five children after my father’s demise. We had only seen parottas being sold at restaurants when we were young, we could never afford them. Those days were difficult,” Balakrishnan recounted. Soon, he moved to Chennai seeking job to help his family and found one at a hotel in Saidapet. It did not take Balakrishnan long to head back home and start the eatery.
“The poverty we faced in our childhood is the main reason we fixed the price this low,” the couple said, adding if anyone came to them hungry and had no money at all, they would still feed them free of cost.
When the couple started the business three decades back, the price of a parotta was a meagre 25 paise. They gradually increased it up to Rs 2 and then, decided not increase it further. However, parotta that are a little bigger in size, made on request, are sold at Rs 5 each.
“We haven’t incurred any loss due to this fixed price,” Lakshmi quickly added. “The only switch we made was from maida to serving wheat parottas,” she said. Like several other businesses, the hole-in-the-wall, too, suffered greatly during the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Now, there is a slight pick up,” said Balakrishnan.
About 200 meters away from the shop, the couple resides in a 150 sq ft one-room-kitchen house. “We used up our savings to buy this house 15 years ago. The room and kitchen are more than enough for us,” Lakshmi said. The couple’s day starts early in the morning. While Balakrishnan goes to the market to buy what’s needed in the kitcen, Lakshmi stays back and takes care of the house. They reach the hotel a little past 1 in the afternoon and start preparing parottas and curry.
M Sabari and his friend Prasanth are regular customers here. “We have been visiting this hotel since our school days. The parottas here are tasty and cheap,” they said. A timber worker, S Manoharan, said, “The hotel is a boon for people like us.”