For Dosa Mama, neighbourhood is family, he cooks for them

With his hand elbow-deep in a large steel vessel of maavu (flour), V Ravichandran stands at the threshold of his kitchen — a shanty — which has a pushcart in front of it. On its side is a signboard which reads ‘Bharathi Evening Tiffin Centre’, and the cart bears a stove just large enough to spread two generously large dosas.
Ravichandran’s hands are full from evening to late in the night
Ravichandran’s hands are full from evening to late in the night

Chennai

Fondly known as Dosa Mama in the vicinity of West Mambalam, Ravichandran opened his stall nine years ago after moving to Chennai from his hometown of Perambalur near Tiruchy. “I have always been in the catering business. My father taught my brother and myself everything he knew. But I wanted to start my own business,” said the 55-year-old.

Since then, he says, his life has never been the same. With a continuous influx of customers, Bharathi Evening Tiffin Centre on on Vivekanandapuram 1st street is known to have notoriously long queues starting from 5.30 pm, which goes on till the night. The queue is a testament of the quality of food Ravichandran serves — from personally grinding the maavu to providing 18 varieties of dosas at a modest rate of Rs 40 each. “The customers respect me and my food. I always make sure I am not taking that respect for granted. I consider them to be a part of my family. Parents call me and tell me their children are coming to the shop for dinner. When they take care to inform me in advance, how can I fail them?” asked Ravichandran.

With space allowing to prepare only two dosas at a time, Ravichandran says the customers are patient as they know him personally and can thus be assured of the food quality. This new life comes after one of difficulty, he said. Working as a caterer does not ensure a regular income, and with two children and rent to pay, Ravichandran said he started this stall to be financially independent.

“I have suffered much hardship during my young years. I only studied till class nine. I didn’t want my sons to suffer the way I did. They are vedic scholars now, and they have no interest in taking over the shop. That’s fine by me. I can work hard until I can work no longer,” he said.

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