Chairman of the Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra took to his Twitter account to share an interesting story with us. We all must have known about the 1-rupee idly vendor, who sells idlies to the needy daily.
Anand Mahindra tweeted the video of 80-year-old K Kamalathal with the caption, “One of those humbling stories that make you wonder if everything you do is even a fraction as impactful as the work of people like Kamalathal.
I notice she still uses a wood-burning stove. If anyone knows her I’d be happy to ‘invest’ in her business & buy her an LPG fueled stove.”
She sells over 1000 idlis per day and while speaking exclusively to India Today about her food she said, “Profits are not my priority but feeding the people is what drives me to work.”
After Anand Mahindra tweeted about the elderly woman and him wanting to offer timely assistance, Mahindra’s Twitter was flooded with tweets praising him.
At an age where people take bed rest and wakes up late in the morning or sometimes in the afternoon, K Kamalathal wakes up even before the sun rises. She takes a bath, performs her daily prayers and then goes to the farm with her son to collect fresh veggies.
She brings out the traditional hand grinder all by herself and she puts in fresh coconut, salt and other ingredients to prepare chutney. She cuts the vegetables required to make sambar, puts them in a pot and then sets it on the firewood stove to cook.
At 6 am each day, this resident of Vadivelampalayam near Perur in Tamil Nadu gives space for customers in her house. Her loyal patrons line up to savour the fluffy and puffy idlis with hot sambar and spicy chutney for just 1 rupee per idli. She runs her shop from her house only.
“I started selling idlis 30 years ago in Vadivelampalayam. I belong to a farming family. Every day, my family members would work in the farm leaving me behind. I was alone, bored and wished to start making idlis for the locals. Now I have loyal patrons in daily wage labourers who stop by to have a healthy breakfast at a nominal price,” says Kamalathal.
Having grown up in a household where they used the conventional stone grinder to make batter and masalas, Kamalathal planned to continue the same when she started the business. She did not find the need to afford a wet grinder.
“As I was raised in a joint family, cooking for a large number of people was not difficult for me. I wash and soak the ingredients the previous day in a vessel and grind them in the evening.
It takes around four hours to grind six kilos of rice and urad dal for the idli batter. I let it ferment overnight and use it the next morning. I prepare fresh batter every day,” she shares.
Even at an elderly age, Kamalathal sells idlis till noon. She possesses a multi-tasking ability where she pours the batter in a three-tier idli maker to prepare a fresh batch of hot and delicious idlis, serves chutney and sambar to those who need. She says: “The vessel can make 37 idlis in one round. I sell around 1,000 idlis every day. Ten years ago, one idli was priced 50 paise and I increased it to 1 rupee a few years back.”
While the chutney changes regularly, Kamalathal makes it a point to only serve mixed vegetable sambar. She serves the food on teak leaves or banyan leaves, which are also taken from their farm.
“Most of the people residing near Vadivelampalayam come from a lower-middle-class background or are economically backward. They are all daily wage workers. In such a case, it is hard for them to pay Rs 15 or Rs 20 for a plate of idli every day for breakfast.
In other hotels, they serve three or four idlis per plate and that’s not enough for their physical labour. So, I focus only on satisfying their hunger. Hence, I priced my idlis at 1 rupee. This will also help them save some money for their family. I get profits, but the margin is less,” she explains.
She is not interested in hiking the price of idlies even after many people’s suggestion because she is doing it for the poor and needy people.