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Durable Link to this BlogSunday, December 6, 2009

K.T. Appanna

I have been invited by the Mythic Society to deliver a lecture on Science of Cooking (Pakasastra) in ancient Karnataka. The occasion is remembrance day and birth anniversary of K.T. Appannah (1884-1962) and his contribution to society through catering service.

Late Kolar Thirumalaswami Appannah was a pioneer in hotel industry in old Mysore State. He lost his father due to Plague, at the tender age of fourteen. Being the eldest son he was compelled to support his mother and the siblings. With no assets or monetary help he had to fend himself. With the support of his maternal uncle and Ramaiah, a neighbour, who lent him 300/- Rupees, he started a small eatery in 1898.

Catering was not at all easy, in the caste-ridden conservative society. Selling eatables was not considered respectable. With the help of his mother he built Hindu Coffee Club in 1898, which became famous for Idlis, Bhajjis and Upma with aromatic coffee. There were "clubs" and "hotels" only for Europeans in Bangalore at the time, and Appannah became a trendsetter by opening a coffee club for natives.

He introduced tables, chairs, cups and saucers, which were all a novelty. People used to sit on planks on the ground and ate on Banana leaves, a centuries old practice at the time. With eternally moving people and camping drama companies, Appannah"s small coffee club teamed with people all the time in Chickpet (Market area) in Bangalore.

Appannah then started serving meals. Young students, who could not afford hostel expenses were very happy to have two sumptuous meals twice a day with 6/- a month! That worked out at two annas a meal. The moderate charges, clean and quality service, drew more and more customers. Bangalore city station was growing as a railway center for travelers from south as well as Bombay and Mysore. By 1905, Appannah was selected to do railway catering. He rose to the occasion.

Dewan M. Visvesvaraya a doyen among administrators was quick to recongnise Appannah"s dedication, business acumen and philanthropic nature. Government of Maharaja of Mysore wanted better civic amenities in Bangalore, which was frequented by noted businessmen, industrialists and tourists. The matter was discussed in a meeting and K.T. Appannah took the initiative and thought of starting boarding and lodging facilities at a single place. He went for a bigger building near railway station, purchased new furniture and equipment. The government also helped him with a small grant. The Modern Hindu Hotel was born in 1916.

It was the first hotel which catered on a big scale irrespective of castes and communities. It was a daring attempt which was successful because of the prompt and good service and personal attention of the proprietor who had eye for every detail.

Modern Hindu Hotels came up in Mysore and Ooty. These hosted many a VIPs of those times including Rajaji, M. Visvesvaraya, Rt honorable Shrinivasa Sastri, and D.V.G. and the great historian Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri.

Appannah was a great philanthropist. Right from the beginning he provided free meals and helped the poorest who approached him. Many educational institutions in Bangalore availed his liberal donations. All hoteliers respected him. Shri K. Seetharam Rao founder of Dasprakash chain of hotels, acknowledged Appannah as his Guru.

On November 19th 1962, he had collected a huge amount for National Defence Fund, against aggression of China and had started to hand it over to the Secretary of Mysore State, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 78.

October 10th the birthday of K.T. Appannah is observed as Hoteliers' Day.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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