Thursday, January 26, 2012

Easy walk to Vidyarthi Bhavan

Bangalore’s “Vidyarthi Bhavan” is known for its Masala Dose.  Located in the busy Gandhi Bazar circle in Basavanagudi area, the restaurant is home for its famous Dose for the last seven decades.  Started in the year 1943, it will celebrate 70th anniversary next year.  The walk to Vidyarthi Bhavan is now easy.

Gandhi Bazar main road from Tagore circle to Ramakrishna square is a very busy road with two way traffic.  It is one of the few roads in Bangalore still left with two ways traffic as most of the roads have become one way streets.  The long line at the starting point for city bus routes 39 and 41 at the western end of the road is already history.  City buses are allowed on this road only from South East to North West.  The road stretch from Tagore circle to the Gandhi Bazar circle was difficult to walk, with several vegetable and fruit shops occupying the entire foot path and spilling over to the main road itself.  Add to it the freedom in our country to park anywhere one likes and the additional freedom to stop, get in and get out of vehicles as and when one likes and wherever one pleases.  It is said that there were more than 300 shops in this stretch, and in any case it was over a hundred shops and sub-shops selling everything from vegetables, fruits, flowers, banana trunks to banana leaves.  Despite the struggle to move from one end of the road to the other, purchasers for festive occasions thronged these shops and they will miss the mad rush henceforth.  It had become an accepted way of life and people moved around crisscrossing between the shops.  Shop owners never bothered about the inconvenience to the public and the problems of the pedestrians.  Bangalore Municipal Corporation authorities have vacated all these shops on the midnight of Monday, 23rd January.  Civic authorities claim that the shop owners were given oral notice a month back and they did not respond.  They say there is no need for a written notice to remove illegal encroachments.

In true democratic style, this midnight action has divided public opinion.  Some welcome the action as it will remove congestion on this stretch of the road. Some others feel that the action of the authorities was high-handed.  There are claims of fruits and vegetables having been taken away ruining the lives of the footpath merchants.  There is also a demand for compensating them.  Even those who were cursing the encroachment till yesterday are now supporting the protests against the eviction and demolition.  The argument against the demolition of structures is that such shops should exist in a middle class locality and it is for the benefit of the common man.  Some prominent personalities have already come out in support of the shopkeepers.  If the shops return after a few days as a result of a compromise formula, we need not be surprised.

My first visit to Vidyarthi Bhavan was fifty years ago, and I remember crossing the road holding my father’s finger.  One of my uncles had a shop on the nearby D V G Road.  My father visited him in the shop and later took me to this place for Idli Sambar and Dosa.  Being a place introduced by revered father, I have been a regular visitor to this place for fifty years now.  A tennis ball cricket match in the nearby National College grounds played between teams with G R Visvanath and B S Chandrasekhar among others was incomplete without a visit to VB.  A regular cricket enthusiast used to come to see these matches like us and he used to sing many Cricket songs describing the rivalry between visiting teams and Indian team.  When all requests and persuasions failed to make him sing, offer of a Dose at VB would bring him around to sing those songs.  VB was and still is housed in a tiled building.  The old room at the back of the kitchen used to have three benches on which family members could squeeze in as per their own capacities to shrink and accommodate each other or another dose fan.  Three to seven persons would sit on the four feet bench.  There used to be a big grinder on one side for making the dough and a smaller one for chutney on the other side.  Sacks of baked potato used to be behind us ready for peeling.  The mild or occasionally strong smell of chillies fried for sambar powder would add to the atmosphere. Unlike the main hall, there were no tables in this room and one had to hold the plate in the left hand and eat with the right.  Of course, lefthanders could use the hand in the reverse order and there was no objection.  Square shaped newspaper pieces were given for wiping the extra butter on the fingers after eating the dose.

Things have now changed and the place has been renovated with the old room being made a part of the hall.  Aqua Guard filter water is served now and the visiting NRIs prefer mineral water which is supplied at a cost.  Paper napkins have been introduced in place of newspaper pieces.  Quality of dose and other items have, however, been maintained with increase in cost as per the demand of times and is an index of the spiraling inflation.  A Dose is available for less than forty rupees today.  People complain of heavy rush and long waiting before they get a place to sit and enjoy their breakfast.  It is mainly because they visit after 9 AM on a holiday.  The best time to visit Vidyarthi Bhavan is between 7.30 AM and 8.30 AM.  There are no crowds at this hour and one can finish a sumptuous breakfast within fifteen minutes. Otherwise there would be a long wait and persons standing all round you staring at you and your plate and waiting for you to finish and get up.  Their disappointment when you order a second dose, which rarely happens, can be actually felt for it would further lengthen their wait.  I have seen a waiting list being maintained and people asked to wait outside the hall on a few occasions.  One can enjoy the beautiful pictures of Mount Kailash and Manasa Sarovara during the wait and also see pencil pictures of many prominent personalities adorning the walls. Photos of Kannada filmland’s most popular actor Dr. Rajkumar and past Chief Ministers of Karnataka, S M Krishna and B S Yediyurappa enjoying the Dose are also displayed on the walls.

One can start with Idli-Vada sambar as an appetizer and then wait for the dosa to come. Idli-Vada is served in a plate with enough sambar to cover them, unlike the miserly small cups of sambar you get elsewhere.  The idli-vada sambar here remind of the ones we get in Ratna Cafe on Triplicane High Road and Krishna Lunch Home near Armenian street in Chennai.  If the dose is delayed due to rush, you can always have poori-saagu and continue to wait for the dosa.  A hot cup of excellent coffee rounds off the breakfast.  If the visit is in the afternoon, you have the choice of a Rava Vada followed by Dosa and coffee.  Dosa is available in two variants, potato and onion filling being the default option and saagu filling being on request. Sagu dose is available only in the mornings.  Vidyarthi Bhavan Dose is criticised by some that it has more butter than batter.  Some unfortunate persons come here and eat something else and skip dose for fear of calories.  It is an irony that those who should really worry about their calories enjoy their dose while those worrying about their weight keep worrying even without eating it.  One can always walk down to the nearby beautiful Bugle Rock Gardens for a walk to burn the calories.  Lal Bagh is also only a kilometre away.

Bangalore has been a home for some of the best Masala Dose over the years.  Central Tiffin Rooms in Malleswaram, popularly known as CTR, Udupi Krishna Bhavan (UKB) in Balepet, Malabar Lodge, also in Balepet just a stone's throw away from UKB are also known for this item.  Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) near Lalbagh main gate has been a leader in Dose dispensation and also many other well known items including sweets and excellent coffee served in silver tumblers.  Each one of these have its own fan base claiming their favorite as the best.  I have been rather impartial and visit all of them depending on convenience.  But still I have admit VB is the favorite.

Some two decades ago, there was a hot discussion in Karnataka Legislature Assembly.  Tempers rose high and the atmosphere was full of tension.  Suddenly, somebody said something about hot Dose.  Discussion digressed to Masale Dose and there was a lengthy exchange on the best dose in Bangalore.  Leader of the opposition said that a outlet in Chickpet area, a small house, was the best place to eat dose in Bangalore.  Leader of the house and Leader of the opposition agreed to visit that place and decide on the merits.  The hot atmosphere had suddenly cooled down and dose had brought the ruling party and opposition together!

Better visit now when the walk to VB is easier than sometime later when the walk becomes difficult, if and when the shops return with a vengeance.  Remember, Friday is a holiday for VB.

11 comments:

  1. As a 3rd generation fan, VB is still my fav dose place though SLV ( BSK 2nd stage) is the place to go to satisfy idli+vada+chutney craving! A down the memory lane blog post for SLV is in order. Somehow, MTR never captured my palate like these two places...

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  2. one of friend from bangalore mentioned that if some body has tasted the masala dosa of chikmagalore town canteen one will not talk so much about VB Masala dosa.Evev masaladosa at MTR or new modren cafe at VVpura is also very tasty like ths VB one

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  3. VB is mine and the family's all time favourite for Dose, though NMH in VV Puram and Janardhan near Shivananda Circle also compete for a close second.

    Dad tells me Friday is a holiday at VB as 15th August 1947 was a Friday. Could be apocryphal but adds to the legend of this iconic place!

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  4. Janardhan near Sivananda circle is a branch of UKB of Balepet and from the same group!

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  5. Vive le Vidyarthi Bhavan! I now have hunger pangs thanks to my nostalgic olfactory and visual systems. Not a big fan of MTR but SLV sure is the best for Idlu-Chutney! Appa, you've made me so hungry & I have to eat chinese takeout instead...so unfortunate!

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  6. I felt the same way as Archana i.e having hunger pangs.
    Then I thought I must visit VB next time when we are in
    Bengaluru with Keshav and Geetha and ofcourse with others too.
    More the merrier.
    UR.....

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  7. Murthyji appears to have concentrated only on iconic and historic eat outs of Bangalore. While I am yet to taste the Dose of VB which I make a point to taste soon, I must recommend the tastes of Dose at Mailari Hotel of Mysore and also the Masala Dose of Mysore Restaurant of Bijapur which is one of the best I have tasted so far. Also my taste buds fondly remind me of the Idly chutney of Anand Bhavan of Jamakhandi town in Bagalkot District which is the hot spot of Jamakahandikars.

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  8. All the hawkers have already returned, whether it is easy or difficult walk to VB, but the Dosa is best,we do not forget, the innumerable times we have all enjoyed together.
    Though we welcome the removal of hawkers, where you get many things at one place,
    in a recent function we were wondering where to buy certain things.

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  9. Indian, please give me the address of Mailari Hotel in Mysore.

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  10. Mylari Hotel is in Nazarbad main road in Mysore. Now it appears there are two hotels with the same name in that road!

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  11. Mylari Hotel is in Nazarbad main road in Mysore. Now it appears there are two hotels with the same name in that road!

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