Friday, August 3, 2007

where guest is god

Annalakshmi Hotel Coimbatore - where guest is god.

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A very rare place in a located in a very un-probable location.

Of vegetarian hotels.

The vegetarian hotels of South India have a characteristic style in their functioning and they are rendering invaluable services to the ordinary people who wish to have a stomach full meal with a fare amount. They are not as costly as the non-vegetarian dishes and do less damage to the intestine. But for a sensitive person the small boys who serve food and clean the table may arouse anger to the management for engaging children for menial work instead of sending them to school. Often these children are subjected to abuse and treated like bonded laborers. These establishments treat customers without a trace of trust and demand payment in advance (in the shape of coupons), thinking that the customer may evade without paying!

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Anna Lakshmi.

(annam = food, Lakshmi = goddess of prosperity)

In a small village near by name Thudiallur near Coimbatore (Kovai) in Tamilnadu India there is a particular type of commercial establishment by name, Annalaxmi (also can be spelt Annalakshmi). There are many types of hotels in everywhere on earth, especially in South Indian towns there are no dearth for vegetarian hotels. What is so special about this one may be the natural question any reader may think? There are a lot of unique features to be known as such an establishment does not exist any where else!

Aditi devo bhava.

Aditi = guest, devo bhava = is god

The hotel though look small from outside is spacious; air conditioned with tiled floor covered by expensive carpets and can seat seventy people at a time. Behind the counter there is a board with the letters embossed ‘Aditi divo bhava’ (this sentence in Sanskrit means guest is god) a visitor for the first time in this premises may easily take it as one of the many gimmicks a shop owner may do to impress the customer.

Club class.

The furnishings are all class and one may naturally assume a substantial bill for the dishes served! The people who serve the dishes look rather unusual as they also spell class with very cordial and educated dealings. These are features which stand in contrast with the usual settings of a vegetarian hotel where small untidy boys serving dishes. The time for dinner is between 11-30 am and 3 pm and for supper it is between 6-30 pm and 9-30 pm.

A saint and his unique mission.

It was in 1970 a monk by name ‘Santhnantha Saraswathi’ who conceived the idea of establishing such a hotel where money did not matter. Any one can go in have a sumptuous vegetarian meal of cooked white rice with sambar, rasam, curd, pickles, pappadam, and all paraphernalia attached to a vegetarian feast. As the final course there is a glassful of payasam (a sweet porridge made of molasses and grains in concentrated boiled milk)

South Indian delicacies de-mystified.

For those who are not familiar with a South Indian vegetarian meal the above items are explained. Sambar is a curry (which is first poured on the rice) of cooked peas with vegetables and gravies. Rasam is actually a vegetable soup with pepper and asafoetida (a resinous hot tasting vegetarian gum with a penchant smell that gives sambar and rasam its particular taste). Curd is fermented milk and pappadam is a tasty flat paper-like rounded item made of black gram powder, which becomes crisp when fried and eaten by breaking it in to pieces. It is crisp and salty.

No bills!

The funny part is this after the meal the customers would be expecting a menu card with the bill enclosed, here there is no bill at all! The customer can place any amount he pleases in the menu card and go out (need not be sensitive that before you check out the card may be opened and if the sum is less they (as well as the customer) may be embarrassed. Only after the client has left it (the menu card) will be taken and without checking what is inside; contends will be dumped in the cash box, it will not be counted at all!

Professors serve!

Those who serve as the customer would have surprised at first are all volunteers who do the job as a service, as the guest is god his service is equal to serving god. There are about 100 families who are ardent devotees of Sri Santhanantha Saraswathi Swamikal in the surrounding area and they do it as a service like preparation of food, serving and the washing of the dishes as well as keeping the hotel in ship shape. These ‘servants’ include well known professors, students, doctors, advocates engineers and people of all walks of life who find it a worthy to spend their vacation serving the society.

A great mission from a great man.

There are many other such charity establishments managed by the monk like the Sivananda Clinic a charitable hospital at Vadavally at Tamilnadu. It is offering treatment to hundreds of people living in the surrounding area. Annalakshmi Hotel gets more money than what is needed for its functioning and the surplus is utilized towards the expenses of the Sivananda Clinic for the free medical care to the poor. The Annalakshmi establishment also arranges feasts associated with marriages and other ceremonies. Anyone who wishes to know more about this establishment can contact with them Annalakshmi Hotel, Thudiallur, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India.

Phone no. 09994490920

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