Paattiamma sells idli for Re 1 per piece
Vadivelampalayam is a village on the outskirts of Coiambatore, the busy industrial and business hub in Tamil Nadu. An ordinary village, what is so special about Vadivelampalayam? one may ask. Of course, there is something very special to this village. It has its Paattiamma (Grandmother) a gracefully old lady of 82, who sells mouth-watering steamy idlis and chutney for Re 1 per piece, while outside it may cost Rs10 or more, depending on the shop. She started this eatery 30 years ago. It has been very popular among the people, rich and poor.
Kamalathal, known in the village and around as Paattiamma, is very famous now even abroad as six videos about her and her idli are going around through YouTube with over one lakh viewers.
Kamalathal prepares idli by herself in the traditional way. She uses a grinder made of stone, which is operated by hand to make the batter, an earthen stove, firewood and a traditional aluminum vessel to make idlis. She even chooses the firewood as every wood piece is not good. The eatery does not have modern furniture. Yet people form queue in front of her shop. But she keeps the place neat and clean.
She begins her day at 5 in the morning. Before 6 am, she gets everything, the idli batter and chatney ready by her side near the stove and waits for the water in the idli vessel to boil to start cooking. The shop will be opened at 6.30am. Her regular customers are already there and the business is begun, which will continue without any break until the last piece is sold. She closes the eatery before noon, by that time at least a thousand idlis are sold. Enough for the day. That’s what she says, fully contented.
Kamalathal needs eight kg rice per day and other ingredients for the batter and chatney accordingly. She chooses the best quality rice which costs nearly Rs 50 per Kg and other ingredients are also the best in the market.
Her customers include people from all walks of life. There are school children, office goers, labourers and families among her regular customers. People from other villages also frequent her eatery. Many of them also take parcels.
Despite her advanced age, Kamalathal goes around everywhere to see her customers are happy and there is no complaint from anybody.
So many of her well-wishers told her to increase the price as cost of everything is going up. But she refuses to raise the price from Re 1 per idly saying, she is doing this business not for profit only. She considers giving good food for a minimum price is a “punniyam.”
She has an assistant too, young Aarathi, her grandson’s wife, who takes care of the sale, and helps her in purchasing , apart from keeping the place clean.