Meet K Kamalathal, The 80-Year-Old Woman Who Sells Idlis For Just Re 1 & Refuses To Hike Prices
This is a repost from Meet K Kamalathal, The 80-Year-Old Woman Who Sells Idlis For Just Re 1 & Refuses To Hike Prices by Shreya Chauhan as it's not available in the EU Region.
K Kamalathal runs a shop from her house at the age of 80. What does she do? Every morning she opens her doors to customers and sells fluffy, yummy idlis with delicious sambar and chutney for just Rs 1.
At the age of 80, K Kamalathal is up before the sun rises. She reportedly started selling idlis 30 years ago in Vadivelampalayam.
She is used to cooking for a large number of people as she grew up in a joint family. She does most of the work manually and it takes her four hours to grind all the ingredients for idli batter, which she does in the evening and uses next morning after it has been fermented. She makes sure to prepare fresh batter everyday.
She reportedly sells around 1,000 idlis everyday! Till 10 years ago, she sold an idli for 50 paise and over the years she has increased the price to just Re 1.
She realises that most people in Vadivelampalayam come from a lower-middle-class background or financially deprived background. In such a case even paying Rs 15-20 bucks for a plate of idli every day is hard for them.
Does she manage to make a profit? Marginally yes. But that is not her priority. Even when some have asked her to hike the price she refuses to do so, because she sells idlis to the poor, needy and hungry.
She is doing such noble work even at the age of 80. More power to her.
Idli along with care from this 80-year-old for just 1 rupee
At the age of 80, K Kamalathal is up before the sun rises. She takes a bath, performs her daily prayers and goes to the farm with her son to collect fresh vegetables. She brings out the aatukallu all by herself, puts in fresh coconut, salt and other ingredients to make chutney. She chops the vegetables required to make sambar, puts them in a pot and sets it on the firewood stove to cook. The previous night she had kept the idli batter ready.
At 6 am every day, this resident of Vadivelampalayam near Perur in Tamil Nadu opens the doors of her house to customers. Her loyal patrons line up to savour the fluffy idlis with piping hot sambar and spicy chutney for just 1 rupee per idli. She runs her shop from her house.
"We visit her house at 8 am only to see many customers waiting patiently for their turn to pick up the food. Amidst the chaos, she welcomes us with a smile. While she manoeuvres across the rooms carrying a bucket of sambar and a plate of idli, you are sure to be left surprised at how quickly she serves everyone. “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 traditional stone grinder to make batter and masalas, Kamalathal decided to continue the same when she started the business. She did not find the need to purchase 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.
Kamalathal sells idlis till noon. She is a multi-tasker — she pours the batter in a three-tier idli maker to prepare a fresh batch of idlis, serves chutney and sambar to those who need, and tells us, “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 every day, Kamalathal makes it a point to only serve mixed vegetable sambar. She serves food on teak leaves or banyan leaves, which are also acquired 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 makes a profit of up to Rs 200 a day. “Many approach me and ask me to hike the price. I tell them that I do this for the needy and hungry,” she shares.
As the news about her idlis spread, she started getting customers from areas like Boluvampatti, Pooluvampatti, Thenkarai and Mathipalayam who are now her regular customers. Kamalathal does not intend to increase the price of the food even in the future.
“My grandchildren ask me to stop the business as I am getting old and they want me to look after my health. But I refuse to stop as preparing food for people brings me joy. It also keeps me active,” she says. Recently, she added uzhunthu bonda in her breakfast menu as recommended by her customers. It is priced at Rs 2.50 each.
“The idli served here has a traditional touch. The batter is ground in a stone grinder and steamed on a mud stove. Whenever I eat here, I feel that my pattima is feeding me,” says 23-year-old Gopi Krishnan, a customer who lives near Kamalathal’s kitchen in Vadivelampalayam.