From Firewood to LPG, Octogenarian Idli Vendor Comes A Long Way

80-year-old K Kamalathan has been selling idlis at Re 1 each for the past 30 years.

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Setting an example of selfless service-cum-low margin business model, 80-year old Kamalathal has been selling idlis, a staple south Indian breakfast delicacy, at Re 1 each in Tamil Nadu, and her three decades of noble effort sans modern kitchen gadgets finally won support from the government and industry leaders.

She will no longer have to use firewood for cooking and the grinding stone to make the idli batter – her daily routine for the past 30 years – as help pours in from various quarters.

Kamalathal, a widow and a resident of Vadivelampalayam on the city outskirts, recently upgraded to a cooking gas (LPG) connection and grinder and mixer after her story went viral on social media, with Mahindra group chairman Anand Mahindra taking the lead and expressing his willingness to 'invest' in her business.

From Firewood to LPG, Octogenarian Idli Vendor Comes A Long Way
The woman sells around 600 idlis every day, sells it for Re 1 a piece with a side of sambar and chutney, all of which she prepares alone, yet manages to earn some profit.

She draws regular customers from different walks of life such as students, government employees and others every morning for her one-rupee idlis, which is well below the market rate – ranging from Rs 10 in small food outlets to Rs 50 or higher in high-end restaurants.

She clocks a gruelling schedule everyday, waking up at 4 am to prepare idlis and the side dishes at her humble abode.

She was initially selling idlis for 25 paise per piece but increased the price to Re 1 over the years, due to a hike in the cost of raw materials like rice, urad dal, coconut and vegetables.

Her clientele includes students, employees of government offices and private companies, drivers, daily wage earners, who prefer to pick up parcels.

Known popularly as 'Re 1 idli granny', Kamalathal's travails went viral on the social media recently, following which the Coimbatore District Collector K Rajamani met her a few days ago and assured all possible help, including a house under the PM Awas Yojana.

Mahindra Group Chairman Mahindra was also moved by her story and noted she was still using firewood for cooking, offering to get her an LPG stove. However, with the intervention of Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Bharat Gas provided her a cooking gas connection.

Mahindra tweeted: "One of those humbling stories that make you wonder if everything you do is even a fraction as impactful as the work of people like Kamalathal. I notice she still uses a wood-burning stove. If anyone knows her I'd be happy to 'invest' in her business & buy her an LPG fueled stove," he said recently.

Later, responding to a tweet by Bharat Gas-Coimbatore that it had given a LPG connection to the woman, Mahindra tweeted: "This is superb. Thank you Bharat Gas Coimbatore for giving this gift of health to Kamalathal.”

"As I have already stated, I am happy to support her continuing costs of using LPG...And thank you @dpradhanbjp for your concern and thoughtfulness," he tweeted.

On his part, Pradhan tweeted: "Salute the spirit and commitment of Kamalathal. Glad to having helped her through local OMC officers in getting LPG connection. Society must empower such hard working people who defy all odds."

(With inputs from PTI)

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