It was one of our regular weekend camping road trip, towards the end of a long Indian summer. Four of us were heading back to home from an obscure village on an obscure road in the interiors of Maharashtra. Coming across a roadside Dhaba, where we had least expected it, we halted for some freshly cooked food. We had been having packed food brought from home since last couple of days. We stuffed ourselves full with spicy jhunka, solid jowar rotis (called bhakar) and varan bhaat topped with ample ghee, prepared by a middle aged man who looked starkly different from locals of the area. Intrigued as to why someone would open up a Dhaba at such an odd place we started chatting with this guy who not only owned the place but also played the role of chef, cleaner, waiter and maître d’hôtel. To us, it was clearly not a wise business decision.
He started narrating his rags to riches story, as we sat watching the sun set over tail baila rocks in the distance. He was born and raised in a small village of Bidar district, Karnataka near Telangana (erstwhile Andhra Pradesh) border. Hailing from a poor family, in a famine struck era, he was desperate to get out of that blackhole. So he ran away from home as soon as he could to Ahmedabad, where he stayed for a month in Bhagwati lodge near station on 5 rupee a day budget. Well, he had intended to stay on 2.5 rupee a day budget, but that would have required him to sleep below the bed. Only pickpockets slept below the beds in Bhagwati lodge or so the police thought. They would often come at night, pull out anyone sleeping under the bed by their hair and torture them.
During his early teenage, he came to Pune to earn a living where he took up his first job to roll puris on a food stall outside Pune station. At that time he had seen a plot on the far outskirts of Pune in a village called Hinjewadi. It was mid 80s and no one had foreseen the bounties that would be offered for even a single square foot of area. It was a small 3.5 guntha (~3800 square feet) plot valued at Rs 500. Unfortunately, it was way out of his budget then.
His life story can be summarized just in 3 figures : 500 / 40,000 / 10,000,000 (1 crore)
Not long after he came to Pune, that illegal food stall where he was working, got demolished to make way for a bigger bus stand. It was a big blow for the owner but for people working at lower level, finding new work is never too difficult. He started working in Aashirwaadh hotel as a waiter. Owner of this place was a hoodlum who had seized ownership of 3 hotels from the original owner by fooling his sister into a marriage. He was a sly, suspicious man who never trusted any person, especially the hotel staff in any financial matters. He even kept Kaju-Kismis (cashew nuts and raisins) as if they were jewels in a safe in his home. Daily he would release a fixed quota to be used in restaurant kitchen and send it there with a person from family. However, our guy from Bidar, with all his sweet talking and sincerity, instantly won over owner’s trust and became the daily courier of these edible “jewels”.
Owner, being the tall and well built guy that he was, would beat the shit out of anyone who would incur even a slight loss for him. If someone from the staff broke a cup or a plate he would rather leave the job than face his boss. Boss wouldn’t let the staff eat good stuff (like Shira) after work. Amidst this state of mayhem, our guy managed to do some clever jugaad to earn extra profits. He would buy a few plates of Shira daily from his own restaurant for 5 rupee each and sell them at 6 or 7 at the bus stand across the road. While serving water from matka (which was supposed to be free) he would put in a few coins in each of the matkas in a way public can see it. Most people, taking a cue from this would go on to put a few coins themselves, which would be pocketed at the end of day by our guy.
As a result of all this jugglery he was able to save up for that land after about 14 years. By that time the price had shot up to 40,000. He went all-in with this property deal. By this time he was married to a nice girl from his village and even had 2 young sons.
In the next 14-15 years, while he continued working at the same place, the land price inflated and over inflated thanks to IT boom which brought giant techno parks in Hinjewadi. He received even more favour from destiny as his land fell right at the junction of 2 major highways.
Cut-to present: today that land costs about 1o,ooo,ooo (1 crore). His both the sons are now settled in their respective careers – taxi provider and software engineer. Elder one even got married recently. His family is also earning a nice part time income from manual labour of winding wires. They have got a contract with a cable manufacturing company for this work. His wife and a few other women from neighbourhood do it in their free time. Here also they have found a loop hole in company policy which earns them some extra moolah every month.
4 months back he left his job of slavery once and for all to start his own restaurant here. He has made grand plans to make it into an air-conditioned restaurant with luxurious rooms to stay. We still don’t see any business sense in this plan. But then, we also didn’t see the property inflation coming in Hinjewadi 30 years back. So, if you see a 5 star resort on the Lonavala-Mulshi road after 5 years, don’t forget that you read about it first here on Razalpat!
P.S.: Some parts of this article haven’t been fact checked but taken as is from the words of the “man from Bidar”. Also, it relies heavily on my memory of that evening.