The 58-year-old was the familiar face behind the blue window shop in Mylapore famous for its hot bondas and bajjis.

Man in blue lungi and banian sitting inside a shop selling snacks Picture courtesy: Facebook/ Vincent D Souza
news Coronavirus Monday, July 06, 2020 - 18:54

The novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of over a thousand residents of Chennai to date.

While every death leaves a vacuum filled with immense personal grief for near and dear ones, some deaths bring people together in a collective sense of sorrow. The passing of 58-year-old K Sivaramakrishnan (also known as Ramesh), the man who sat behind the famous window shop in Mylapore known as the ‘Jannal Kadai’, was one such moment for the city on Sunday.

For a shop with no name or a sign board, the blue window and the man behind it selling hot bajjis, bondas and tiffin, for over 25 years, organically gained a legendary status among Chennai residents.

Located across the Kapaleeswarar temple in Ponnambala Vadhyar street in Mylapore, the window is part of a house overlooking the main entrance of the temple, from where the man would parcel his snacks and hand them over through the grille.

The 58-year-old was a constant behind the window and a familiar face for hundreds of Mylapore’s long time residents. He would fry piping hot potato bondas and molaga (chilli) bajjis at different times in the evening, when temple-goers and tiffin-lovers would throng his shop. 

“Sivaramakrishnan would often come to help his brother K Chandrasekharan at the shop. The house and the shop belong to Chandrasekharan and the tiffin is prepared by Chandrasekharan’s family members including his wife Maduram. Since he is 67-years-old and not keeping well, Sivaramakrishnan would always be there at the shop to help him,” a family member told TNM.

Photo courtesy: Rahul Sharma 

“In the morning, he used to sell soft idlis and pongal with chutney which was made by the family members. The shop has been given the name Jannal Bajji Kadai by its fans, but I always loved his bondas more for some reason,” says Sridhar Venkataraman who conducts food walks in Mylapore. Since 2012, the shop has been among Sridhar’s regular pit stops for participants. 

Of course, the winner has always been the chutney, which has some secret ingredient that Ramesh would never divulge, Sridhar adds. 

“It's one of my favourite spots in Mylapore in between kutcheries (music concerts) and shopping.. I still hear his voice "ippo thaan pottathu, sooda irukku (It is freshly fried and is very hot)" if we ask for fresh bonda.. truly sad,” wrote Chennai resident Vaithianathan Balagurunathan on Facebook. 

Although not much is known of the person behind the window, Sridhar says that the otherwise quiet man would scold his customers if they did not dispose of their plates in the bin that he placed on the window sill. 

“Some of them would drop the plates on the road and not follow his instructions. And when they did that, he used to get furious. He was also camera shy and would crib if people photographed him,” Sridhar added.

Most of the items on the menu are priced anywhere between Rs 30 and Rs 40 and would be sold out within hours. 

Speaking to TNM, Chennai resident Vinita recalled hunting for the iconic shop in Mylapore years ago. 

“I was very curious about this, and went searching for the shop, asking a lot of people for directions along the way. I finally came up in front of a little blue window and waited for it to open. I remember loving the molaga bajji and visiting again with friends. It's really very sad to hear about the passing of the man who served there,” she told TNM. 

Sivaramakrishnan died on Sunday morning at the Government General Hospital in Royapettah. He suffered from acute diabetes and had been admitted to a neighbourhood hospital late last week due to complications. However, the hospital referred him to the government hospital where he was being treated until Sunday. On the morning of his demise, his COVID-19 tests returned positive. 

From there, he was directly transported to the burial ground in Krishnampet, Bhaskar Seshadri, a member of the Mylapore Residents Association who confirmed Ramesh’s death, told TNM. 

“He is survived by his family including two daughters and his brother. We believe his brother will run the shop now,” he added.