Dosa, one of the most sought out South Indian dishes, are available in every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu in different varieties and at different prices. But 49-year-old Chinnathambi’s dosa shop in Tiruchi city stands out from the rest.
He charges just Rs 2 per dosa.
Located on a small street near the Woraiyur police station Chinnathambi’s humble dosa shop has been feeding hundreds of customers daily for the past six years. “I was a cook and was working at a nearby restaurant for many years. Then I decided to start something on my own where I can sell food at a very reasonable price that even the poorest can afford,” Chinnathambi tells The Better India.
Life has always been difficult for Chinnathambi who still struggles to make ends meet. “Growing up there were nights where I had to sleep on an empty stomach. I have tasted poverty and hunger. Even after running the shop we barely manage to cover our expenses,” he adds.
Chinnathambi sells small dosas for Rs 2 and Rs 3 for idli podi sprinkled on it. He also makes ‘Uttappam’, a type of thick dosa topped with onions and carrots, for just Rs 4. “We also provide five side dishes along with the dosas without any extra charges. Two kurmas, two chutneys and sambar are always available and free with the dosas,” he says.
Besides dosas, items like idli, parotta, different varieties of uttapams, omelette, etc, are also available at his shop, which is open from evening 6.30 pm till midnight 11.30 pm every day.
“We have altogether 24 items at our shop right now. But the most demand is for the Rs 2 dosa. There are a lot of people on the street who can’t afford food daily. But they come to my shop with a Rs 10 note and go back happily with a full stomach. That is enough for me,” Chinnathambi says with a smile.
Set on a narrow street, his shop doesn’t have a big dining space or comfortable furniture, but the customers who visit his shop don’t mind sitting on plastic stools put in front of the shop.
When asked about serving just dinner, Chinnathambi says, “Lunch is easily available at reasonable prices on pushcarts across the city. But I feel it’s difficult to find a place to have an affordable dinner. So, that was my idea — no one should sleep hungry.”
For the past six years, Chinnathambi’s daily routine has remained unaltered. He wakes up at 4 am every day to soak the rice and urad dal for the batter. “I go to the market daily to buy vegetables and other ingredients required for cooking. Then we make the batter and leave it to ferment till evening. We grind around 12 kg of rice and 3 kg of urad dal every day,” he says.
His wife and two daughters have been helping him with all the work at the shop. “I can manage this shop only because my family is also involved in it. My wife and daughters help me out with everything and work with me at the shop till midnight,” says Chinnathambi.
Just like everyone, the COVID-induced lockdown was challenging for his business. He says. “We had to close down our shop during the lockdown. But we managed the situation with takeaways.”
Chinnathambi who makes around 600 to 800 dosas daily earns barely enough to buy vegetables and other raw materials for the next day. “Most of my customers are locals but there are many who come from different places to eat my dosa after watching several YouTube videos on my shop. Also, a lot of youngsters and children come to my shop to buy dosas with their pocket money,” he adds.
“I don’t earn enough to save but I do earn enough money to run the business, even if it is on a day-to-day basis. There’s also enough to pay my shop’s and house rent,” he concludes with a smile.
If you want to contact or offer financial assistance, you can call Chinnathambi at 9865504819
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)
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