Nalla chemmeen kariyumundu.
These lines translate to, ‘There is fried mackerel, and there is pearlspot (green chromide) fry. Even Malabar tamarind-induced prawn curry has been prepared.’
This evergreen film song which talks about the different mouthwatering dishes that are a part of the traditional cuisine of Kerala, has been enticing generations of Malayalis and invariably plays in their heads when hunger pangs strike.
The sumptuous feast on offer at a small hotel which is located at a distance of 2 km from the Kollam railway station, might just make you remember this song.
Singlehandedly run by the soft-spoken and silver-haired Yashodamma for almost 12 years now, the speciality of this asbestos-roofed shack in Thevally is that no hungry person is ever turned away.
Lunch here comprises fish curry, fish fry, cooked tapioca, puliserry, thoran, chamanthi, and pickle along with rice. With no cash counter or billing system, Yashodamma doesn’t charge anyone for the variety of delectable dishes prepared by her and only accepts what people can afford to pay.
“If I was rich, I will serve food to all without taking even a penny. Why do we charge for a one-time meal? Let them pay as they wish. I think satisfying one’s appetite is the most valuable noble action,” said Yasodamma to Mathrubhumi, a local daily.
While the hotel can feed and accommodate ten people at a time, the selfless lady cooks and serves food to over fifty people every single day with no help or assistance.
Yashodamma is originally from Karunagappally, and her husband, Chandrangathan, passed away 12 years ago. This venture started out when a few students living near her home requested her to cook for them. Today, her extremely popular eatery is overrun with people during lunch hours, who come to fill their stomachs with a hearty meal.
Most of her customers are students from colleges and coaching centres who find it difficult to eat well at other hotels and restaurants owing to their exorbitant prices.
Yashodamma starts her day at 6 o’clock, and except for a fish seller lady who cuts and cleans the fish for her, she manages everything on her own quite well. For her, seeing happy faces of people who have eaten her home-cooked food is enough to continue day after day.
“I’m driven by the desire to feed anyone who comes knocking at my doorstep. Sometimes, when people turn up after most dishes have finished and ask me for only rice and puliserry, it saddens me that I couldn’t do enough for them,” said Yashodamma to DD Malayalam.
We admire the generous spirit and steely resolve of Yashodamma, especially at a time as more restaurants are hiking their prices and making it difficult for common man to consume food outside.
You can reach Yashodamma’s hotel by crossing the Rama Varma Club on the Anchalumoodu route.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)