For long, I have heard that Vijayawada is/was the political and cultural hotbed of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh. The political hotbed nature of Vijayawada shows itself up whenever it’s the birthday of a politico based in the city. There are flexi posters wishing the man in question a happy birthday and also words praising his lineage.
With the state separated now and Vijayawada being the region where the capital is based, one would see more of these activities happening. As is the case everywhere else, sycophants abound. In Vijayawada, it’s a lot more than normal. Every Tom, Dick and Harry roams around the city with his own Tom, Dick and Harry. Sometimes this coterie might be a larger group.
In the days gone by, Communist party had a large presence in the city. The memories of the communist past still live on: There are junctions named after prominent communist leaders – local and global.
One of those communists, Mallikarjuna Rao Medasani, opened an idli only restaurant as communism was on the wane. Glimpses of his communist past can be found in the restaurant – a pic of Puchalapalli Sundarayya is garlanded every morning.
The idli hotel (restaurants are also called as hotels in this part of the world) is known locally as SSS idli hotel. People refer to it, non-locals mainly, sometimes as ‘Paaka idli’, referring to its thatched roof with palm leaves.
Whenever an idli hotel opens in Vijayawada, it’s always compared with Babai Hotel idli. While it’s difficult to compare favourably with Babai Hotel, SSS idli has managed to build a following for itself.
Do they serve idlis as good as Babai Hotel? Do they have a legacy as strong as Babai Hotel’s? Do they have as many people patronising the place as Babai Hotel? Do they have enterprising people at the helm as Babai Hotel? Do they have an appreciatory letter from the office of president of India? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding ‘no’.
What is it that makes SS idli popular in a place where iconic pushcarts are ubiquitous? The answer might probably lie in the levels of the hygiene maintained and the freshness of the idlis. It’s not to say that the other places don’t do it; it’s just that it’s more apparent in SSS idli hotel.
As you make your way in through a wooden door into the place, you will find six six-foot long Cuddapah slabs as tables. On one side of the place is where you wash your hands and they share the walls with an auto garage on the other side. If you look to your right, you would find three people working away furiously in what is the kitchen of the place. Two people busy in making the idlis and one person is in charge of the parcel. Depending on the time you are there one or two people would be involved in the serving of these idlis.
Two earthen pots in the middle serve as water containers. The chutney, groundnut chutney, is different from what is served at various places in Vijayawada. They are definitely not frugal when it comes to serving chutney as they are confident that people will clear up the remnants.
The first serving in a plate comes with couple of idlis, lots of chutney and some karappodi. Before you finish the idlis served on your plate, the person serving the idlis comes with the entire plate of idlis and it is difficult to resist the temptation of not having a repeat serving. The idlis are pretty soft and piping hot. When they are had with the chutney, for that moment, you feel as if you have had a trip to heaven.
I have been having idlis here from the time they were priced at 5/- per idly. Now, they are priced at 14/- per idly. They sell buttermilk, lassi and sunnundallu (a type of laddoo made from black gram(?)). Over time a pan shop has made an appearance too.
Location of the place : Pinnamaneni Polyclinic road. Close to Nalanda school. Once you are on the road mentioned, anybody can guide you to the place.
Image Courtesy – Twitter timeline of Ravi Korukonda
*Changed six six feet tables to six six-foot tables on 14th September