Vidyarthi Bhavan: A Historic Landmark A place that connects with a glorious past and beholds a promising future
Seventy years may be a brief period in the life of a city or state, but for those who visit Vidyarthi Bhavan, a modest vegetarian restaurant in the bustling Gandhi Bazaar area of Bangalore city, it can be a wide spectrum of experiences and everybody would go nostalgic.
Started in 1943 as a small canteen on Gandhi Bazaar main road to cater to the needs of mostly students of the city’s own famous National College, BMS college of engineering, Acharya Pathashala in N R Colony in Basavanagudi area, it was aptly named as Vidyarthi Bhavan. But some of its visitors have been giants in almost all walks of life—recipients of Jnanpith awards, test cricketers, poets, politicians, writers, famous singers etc, etc.
Visiting Vidyarthi Bhavan to have masala dosas, idly, vada, sambhar, khara bath and kesari bath have become second nature for millions of Bangaloreans.
“I am 74 now and I have been visiting Vidyarthi Bhavan ever since I was 10, that is for the last 65 years. The taste of dosa, chutney, sambar is just the same. So much have changed in the world, but Vidyarthi Bhavan has not changed, except for widening the hall and re-arranging the seats & tables,” said Sharada Prabhakar, a home-maker. As student of Acharya Pathashala, a college in N R Colony, she has been visiting this famous eating joint, to be called in the modern parlance.
Says V Subramanya, a retired official from ISRO and a resident of Chikkalsandra, “For lakhs of people of Bangalore city, Vidyarthi Bhavan has become a part of our daily life. It so happens we meet our neighbours or friends in Vidyarthi Bhavan, whom we may not have met,” he added. Sixty-two-year-old Subramanya is a regular visitor of Vidyarthi Bhavan for almost five-and-a-half-decade.
What is so special about this restaurant. It is not only the taste of the dosas, but the homely ambience and the courtesy with which the waiters serve the customers. Cleanliness is something to be mentioned of with pride. The waiters do not wear footwear (serve with bare-foot) and wear white dhoti and blue shirts. The hairs are well-kempt, even the cleaner boys are neat and tidy.
The pencil sketches of stalwarts & veterans of all walks of life adore the walls of Vidyarthi Bhavan. For example, E A S Prasanna, B S Chandrashekar, G R Vishwanth, S M H Kirmani- all cricketers; U R Anantha Murthy, B M Srikantaiah, Pu Thi Narasimhachar, Kuvempu—all writers, Dr M S Subbulakshmi, Dr M L Vasantha Kumari, Dr D K Pattammal, all Carnatic Musicians; C Ashwath, P Kalinga Rao—doyen of folk music; Master Hirannaiah, the city’s own famous theatre personality and satirist—so and so forth, are put up on the walls. “This enables the customers to go nostaltic,” says Suma Jayanth, a home-maker, from Padmanabhanagar.
Ramakrishna Adiga, the proprietor of this restaurant, said, “We do not make our employees work like donkeys without rest. We open at 6.30 AM and close at 12 Noon. Once again, we are open at 3 PM and go on till 8 PM. We are closed on Fridays to enable our employees to relax and attend to their personal work.” Arun Adiga, son of Ramakrishna Adiga, revealed, “I have inherited a great legacy. It is a matter of pride as well as imposes a great responsibility. By dint of my hard work, I need to preserve, nurture this great legacy,” Arun said, sounding modest.
On an average about 1,500 customers visit Vidyarthi Bhavan every day and on Sundays, the number of people visiting their pet restaurant is about 2500. What is unique about Vidyarthi Bhavan is that it has beaten the negative or adverse impact of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation because of which the restaurants and hotels changed their character to cater to the needs of market forces. But Vidyarthi Bhavan took up this economic watershed as a challenge; stuck to its tradition but modernised kitchen; did not compromise on the quality of food and emerged a winner. Today Vidyarthi Bhavan is a fine example of an innocuous blend of tradition & modern.
What is the mantra that sustains this restaurant in the times of challenges of various kinds—“Indian First, Indian Last; Don’t compromise on quality of service; Don’t enter rat race; be your own self, then the world would accept you,” says Arun.
Vidyarthi Bhavan has become a legend; its legacy lives on, thanks to modest, unassuming, disciplined and enterprising nature of Arun.
By S A Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru